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Shortly after Lord Courtney's death I accepted Lady 
Courtney's request to write his life. While hghtening my 
labour in every possible way and allowing me to make 
unrestricted use of her Journal, she has left me an absolutely 
free hand in the selection of material and the expression of 
opinion. To her, to Mrs. Oliver, Lord Courtney's sister, and 
to Professor George Unwin, for eight years his secretary, 
I am indebted for reading the book in proof and for valuable 
criticisms and suggestions. 

Relations and friends have earned my gratitude by their 
ready response to appeals for assistance, and I regret that 
the exigencies of space have prevented the use of all the 
information and comment which have been supplied. His 
oldest surviving friend, Mr. William Stebbing, compiled a 
brief memoir of the highest value, from which I have made 
copious extracts. The Master of St. John's has kindly 
examined the College books for the details of his academic 
career, while Dr. Liveing, Dr. Bonney and Mrs. Bushell 
have supplied personal recollections of the young Cambridge 
student. Mr. William Latey has investigated his connection 
with the Hardwicke Society in its earliest days, and Sir 
Edward Clarke has given me his impressions of his share 
in its debates. The Times has generously permitted me 
to reveal Leonard Courtney's authorship of many of its 
leading articles, and Sir J. Thursfield and Dean Wace have 
answered questions relating to Printing House Square. 



Lord Fitzmaurice has described the activities of the Radical 
Club, of which Mill, Fawcett and Dilke were the leading 
spirits. The Rt. Hon. Thomas Burt and Lord Northboume 
have recorded their recollections of the Disraeli Parhament, 
and Sir Algernon West and Lord Eversley of his work at 
the Treasury. In addition to pronouncing judgement on 
the Chairman of Committees, Mr. Arthur Elliot has recalled 
the more peaceful atmosphere of the Breakfast Club, which 
has also found an appreciative chronicler in Sir Courtenay 
Ilbert. The feasts of reason at the Pohtical Economy 
Club have been celebrated by Sir John Macdonell, Sir 
Bernard Mallet and Mr, Henry Higgs. Mr. Humphreys 
has supplied information on the revival of the campaign 
for Proportional Representation in 1904, the Rt. Hon. 
J. W. Gulland on the candidature for West Edinburgh, and 
Lord Parmoor on the closing years in the House of Lords. 
If this biography succeeds in suggesting the personality 
of its subject it will be owing in large measure to the contri- 
butions of Mrs. Oliver and Miss Julyan, Mrs. Crump and 
Mr. Arthur Roby, Mr. Herbert Paul and Professor Alfred 
Marshall, Professor Unwin and Col. Amery, M.P., Mr. Basil 
Williams and Mrs. Fischer Williams, Miss Mary Meinertz- 
hagen and Mrs. Robin Mayor. 

For permission to publish their letters my best thanks 
are due to Viscount Morley, O.M., who has kindly allowed 
me to consult him on various points ; Viscount Bryce, O.M. ; 
Viscount Haldane, O.M. ; Viscount Grey of Fallodon, the 
Rt. Hon. H. H. Asquith, the Rt. Hon. Augustine Birrell, 
Lord Fitzmaurice, Lord Channing, the Rt. Hon. Sir Edward 
Clarke, the Rt. Hon. Gerald Balfour, General Smuts, the 
Rt. Hon. J. X. Merriman, the Hon, Arthur ElHot, Mr. 
Frederic Harrison, Mr, William Stebbing, Mr. Herbert 
Paul, Professor GUbert Murray, the Rev. Stephen Gladstone, 
Mr. Aneurin Williams, M.P., Mr. H. W. Massingham, 


Mr. G. M, Trevelyan, Mrs. Fawcett, Lady Frances Balfour, 
Miss Emily Hobhouse and Mrs. J. R. Green. The repre- 
sentatives of Courtney's correspondents who have passed 
away have responded to my requests with equal generosity. 
Viscount Gladstone, the Marquess of Salisbury, the Rt. Hon. 
Austen Chamberlain, M.P., the Duke of Devonshire, Earl 
Grey, Earl Spencer, the Marquess of Ripon, Viscount 
Goschen, Sir George Welby, Judge Gwynne- James, Sir 
Wilfrid Lawson, Mr. Leslie Scott, K.C., M.P., Mr. Leonard 
Huxley, the O'Conor Don, Mr. Arthur Roby, Mr. William 
Caine, Mrs. Perceval, Mrs. Selous, Mrs. Andrew Carnegie, 
Mrs. Rathbone, Mrs. Simeon, Mrs. Wilbraham Cooper, the 
Hon. Mrs. Mellor, Mrs. Skilbeck, Miss Mundella, Miss 
Estelle Stead, Mrs. Moberly Bell, and Mrs. T. B. Bolitho, 
have earned my gratitude by permitting me to use letters 
of their relatives over the publication of which they possess 
legal control. I am also indebted to Lord Pentland for 
allowing me to print some characteristic letters of Sir 
Henry Campbell - Bannerman, to Mr. John Murray for 
permission to publish a note from Robert Browning, and 
to Herbert Spencer's Trustees. 

G. P. G, 

March 1920. 



1. Penzance ..... 

2. Cambridge 

3. Lincoln's Inn .... 

4. Politics, Economics and Journalism 

5. Printing House Square 

6. Travel, Study and Friendships 

7. The House of Commons 

8. The Treasury Bench 

9. Marriage 

10. Resignation . 

11. The Sudan . 

12. Home Rule . 

13. Chairman of Committees . 

14. Above the Battle 

15. The Speaker's Chair . 

16. The Shadow of Imperialism 

17. The Bursting of the Storm 

18. The South African War . 

19. The Last Phase . 














20. Cheyne Walk 438 

21. Tariff Reform . . ... . . . .478 

22. The House of Lords . . " 509 

23. Entangling Alliances 547 

24. Armageddon 577 

Index 621 


A Portrait of Lord Courtney from a Photograph by 

Elliott & Fry ....... Frontispiece 

Which is the " Sage of Chelsea " ? .... Face page -^^lo 



On February 20, 1901, Leonard Courtney dictated some 
recollections of his boyhood. Though already in his sixty- 
ninth year, his memory was singularly tenacious ; and the 
biographer is fortunate in possessing a record at once so 
vivid and so detailed of the earliest stages of his career.^ 

" My father was bom in Ilfracombe, as his father and 
grandfather and other forbears before him. Nearly forty 
years ago I examined the parish register and found that, 
with very little difficulty, the Une could be traced back 
about two centuries. They were modest townfolk, fre- 
quently ship -masters and probably owning in part or 
altogether the craft they sailed. My great - grandfather 
was thus the captain of a small vessel. My grandfather 
was lame from his youth through one leg being shorter 
than the other, and he obtained an appointment as officer 
in the Excise. His wife was a Cotton, daughter of a family 
long settled in north and east Cornwall, producing from 
time to time a clergyman or doctor, but in the main farm- 
ing from father to son. I think my grandfather and grand- 
mother must have met at Stratton, where she had relations ; 
but he took her to Ilfracombe, where, as I have said, my 
father was bom. My grandfather was presently moved to 
Bristol, where other children were bom. He was never to 
my knowledge intemperate ; but he was a clubbable man 
after the type of the eighteenth century, strong and clear 

^ The narrative has been sUghtly abridged and broken up into para- 

I B 


in his grasp of things, terse and vigorous in expression 
when he met his friends at the tavern and discussed the 
affairs of town and country. My grandmother, a quiet, 
home-keeping little woman, must soon have learnt the 
pressure of indebtedness ; and before her eldest son was 
many years old, he shared her experiences and Ughtened 
them with sympathy if not otherwise. I think throughout 
Kfe he carried with him the marks of this early education. 
He had a great horror of debt. As a married man he 
practically never went abroad ; and there was a reserve, a 
silence, a caution in the expression of opinion which strongly 
contrasted with the bold and combative qualities of my 
grandfather's temperament. The family hved on in Bristol 
several years, and my father, taken away early from school, 
got emplo5mient as a clerk in a succession of merchants' 
offices. He did not, however, cease to educate himself. 
Nature had given him under all his reserves the sensibihties 
and tastes of an artist. He read whatever he could put his 
hands upon, and I have heard him tell how for three suc- 
cessive days he practically went without his dinner to read" 
one of Scott's novels, just out, which he had a chance to 
devour at his dinner-time. As a lad in Bristol he began to 
play the vioUn, and music remained the solace of his Hfe. 

" The difficulties of the Bristol home did not grow less, 
and somewhere about 1823 it was broken up altogether. 
The appointment in the Excise was lost, and the whole 
family removed to Falmouth, where my grandfather set 
up a private school, my father for some time assisting him 
and obtaining supplementary employment as accountant or 
book-keeper to tradesmen and others wanting assistance. 
This led to his moving a few years later to Penzance. An 
adventurous Unen-draper had come from one of the remote 
centres of English activity and started shops in two or 
three of the Cornish towns, with Penzance as his head- 
quarters ; and my father joined him as accountant at 
Penzance, making business visits to the other places. It 
was there he met my mother. She was a native of Scilly, 
where her father was drowned, leaving a widow and three 
daughters, the oldest, my mother, barely four years old. 


Her mother was a woman of parts, quick intelligence and 
self-reliance. She hved long enough to read the story of 
Adam Bede, taking great delight in Mrs. Poyser. The 
widow's resources were of the smallest ; but she bravely 
faced the world by opening a small shop for groceries, by 
means of which she maintained herself and reared her 
children. It is an illustration of the simpUcity and frugality 
of Ufe in the Scilly Islands, about the time of the close 
of the Great War, that my mother has told me that she 
and other children were taught to write by tracing letters 
in sand. A submissive piety was the note of the house- 
hold ; and in the later years in which I knew it (the two 
daughters remaining at home) it was their custom to read 
the Bible through year by year at the rate of two or three 
chapters a day. My mother, the eldest, was sent to Pen- 
zance, where she grew up and became an assistant in the 
shop in which my father was accountant. Their marriage 
was most happy for both. My father's larger experience 
must doubtless have had an attraction, and his appearance 
was unlike other men. He had long black hair falling back 
from a very sloping forehead, an aquiUne nose, and a saUow 
complexion. He was broad-chested and strong, but with 
limbs that seemed to move together (in which respect Mr. 
Goschen has sometimes reminded me of him) ; and a casual 
observer might be excused if, seeing him play the violin, he 
thought he might be a Jewish musician. My mother, on 
the other hand, had a rather bonny EngUsh face ; whilst 
her nature, pious, dutiful and loving, yet with some sense 
of humour and a large measure of economic aptitude, made 
her the best of wives for her husband and a most beloved 
mother. In trying to reaHse the circumstances of the pair 
I feel that they had great faith when they set up their small 
household. My father had not, I think, wholly given up 
his work with the adventurous linen-draper ; but before I 
was bom he had set up a small day-school, for which, indeed, 
he was admirably quahfied. 

" I was bom at Penzance on July 6, 1832, my parents* 
first child. An old friend, not long dead, who must have 
been a favourite pupil, has told me how he had a glass of 


wine given him to drink my health on the occasion of my 
birth, I cannot remember anything connected with my 
father's school, partly because, when my eldest sister 
succeeded me, I was soon removed to my grandfather's at 
Fahnouth, where I spent the greater part of some five 
years, and partly because, before that time had passed, my 
father had given up school-keeping and had become cashier 
in the Bolithos' Bank, where, with increasing responsibility, 
he remained aU the active years of his Hfe. I must have 
been between five and six when I was brought back to 
Penzance to remain permanently at home.^ My uncle and 
godfather, Leonard, was a navigating officer on board the 
Briseis, one of the lo-gun brigs which in those days carried 
the mails from England to Halifax. My earliest recollec- 
tions are associated with him. The brigs had an unhappy 
notoriety in that one of them disappeared almost every 
winter ; and there was a continual anxiety over every 
prolonged voyage, hope gradually dying away and at last 
giving place to despair. The Briseis disappeared in this 
fashion, among the results being a complete change in my 
grandfather's household and my return to Penzance. It is 
an illustration of my absence from home that I remember 
being presented to my father on my return and looking 
upon him with curiosity as a complete stranger, not in the 
least like the men to whom I was accustomed. 

" From this time forward I lived whoUy at Penzance, 
never going farther than Falmouth, to which I paid fre- 
quent Christmas visits, until my nineteenth year, when I 
went to Cambridge. For seven years or more we Uved in 
the Bank House. My father was a very home-keeping 
man, and his love of music was the only thing that drew 
him away from his fireside. He was a member of a small 
society which for several winters gave philharmonic con- 
certs in the Assembly Rooms ; and when this society was 
broken up the parish organist arranged concerts in sub- 
sequent winters to which my father gave his assistance. In 

^ As Margaret Courtney was bom nearly two years after her brother, 
Leonard must either have spent three years at Falmouth or have returned 
to Penzance at the age of seven or eight. 


later years a choral society was established and flourished ; 
but at the time of which I speak the philharmonic concerts 
held their own though with some difficulty. My father 
used to take me to these concerts from about my ninth or 
tenth year. They were always arranged on the same plan : 
the programme contained two parts, each beginning with 
an overture from some opera of Mozart, Donizetti or 
Rossini, and more rarely Weber, or a s5rmphony or sonata, 
when Haydn most frequently appeared, perhaps a violin 
solo and a couple of songs, I must confess that although 
I generally kept awake during the first part, I generally fell 
asleep during the overture which began the second. Except 
for this relaxation my father's home-keeping was complete, 
his hours out of the bank being occupied with books and 
the education of his children, to whom his sympathy was a 
constant stimulus. 

" The only school to which I must refer is that to which 
I went from nine to thirteen and a half, when I left school. 
It was kept by a Mr. Barnes with a couple of ushers, and 
had something like a hundred boys, three-fourths or more 
being day scholars, and the rest sons of farmers and yeomen 
in west Cornwall. The parents of most of the boys were 
Wesleyans ; but the divisions of sects were not in those 
days very sharply accentuated, and the religious education 
may be said to have been taken for granted. I remember 
no special instruction whatever ; and as there were some 
three or four Jews among the rest who were never to my 
knowledge separated from their feUows, I suspect I am 
right in saying there was no reUgious teaching in the school, 
it being assumed that each day boy was properly instructed 
at home. About two-thirds of the boys received a plain 
Enghsh education ; the remaining third were taught Latin 
and some Uttle Greek, while French was an optional sub- 
ject for which there was a special French master giving us 
part of his time at an extra fee. I was on the Enghsh side 
till I was about twelve, when I had practically got to the 
top of the Enghsh boys, being by that time well advanced 
in Euchd and taking up algebra, though with very httle 
understanding of it. I must have begun French whilst 


still on the English side ; but it would have been astonish- 
ing if much had been learnt, for no subject could be more 
negligently treated by pupils and master, 

" I think I must have been just twelve when I began 
Latin and, of course, I was at first among much younger 
boys. But I advanced very rapidly and was soon among 
those at the top. The school was easy-going, but the tone 
was on the whole good and the boys honest children of the 
middle class. I had an abundance of multifarious reading 
at home, and one of my school-fellows and myseK were 
energetic enough to imdertake some work out of school. 
This was in the summer of 1844. Readers of Carlyle's 
Life of Sterling may remember a certain Polytechnic Society, 
estabhshed at Falmouth mainly through the influence of the 
Fox family, with a museum, lectures and an annual exhibi- 
tion. This exhibition was in those days, as to some extent 
it still is, a great incentive to mental activity in Cornwall. 
Artists sent their work, engineers and inventors their minia- 
ture machines, women needlework and embroidery of all 
kinds, and schoolboys specimens of their progress in map- 
ping and otherwise. My friend and myself conceived the 
idea of making out parallel chronological tables of the 
world's history, for which we had the good fortune to 
receive books, one of which, falling to my share, I still 
cherish. Encouraged by this, we undertook a larger enter- 
prise in the following year — ^no less than a S5mthetic history 
of Cornwall, compiled from the various existing histories 
with scanty additions our own knowledge furnished. It 
was an audacious attempt. I attended the exhibition 
(1845) and passed through the grim experience of hstening 
in the body of the hall to a severe criticism of owi work by 
the judge of this branch on the platform. 

" Another circumstance connected with my school Ufe 
must be mentioned, as it practically shaped all the course 
of my later years. We had annual examinations at the 
school in which gentlemen of the town and neighbourhood 
were asked to come and test the work of the boys. I think 
it must have been in the summer of 1845 that Dr. Willan, a 
Cambridge graduate, residing but scarcely practising in the 


town, came to an examination. He was attracted by my 
mastery of Euclid and perhaps something more, and showed 
a desire to assist me in going further. Some months later 
having, as I have hinted, but httle practice, he began to take 
youths to read with him two or three evenings a week in 
classics and mathematics ; and it was natural that I should 
be one of his first pupils. At Christmas 1845 I left school and 
entered the bank ; but it was arranged by my father that 
I should do no evening work, which portion of the day I 
gave up alternately to reading with Dr. Willan and study 
at home. From Christmas 1845 to Midsummer 1851 my 
life was thus passed, with never a break exceeding a fort- 
night, I think I might say a week, working at the bank 
during the day, and for, or with. Dr. Willan in the evening. 

" These five years and a half of outwardly uneventful 
life were of the greatest importance in my growth and 
upbringing. As we had lived in the Bank House and I 
had often watched my father's work, I started with a 
considerable acquaintance with the routine of banking, and 
soon became familiar with its details. I could turn my 
hand to anything, and if the old books could be inspected 
my handwriting would be detected up and down except in 
the posting of ledgers, to which I think I was never ad- 
mitted. Somehow or other — it seems strange to me now — 
the correspondence of the place gradually fell upon me. 
Perhaps I may mention an illustration of my bank service 
which must have happened in the years 1849 and 1850, of 
which I still remain proud. The bank was understaffed, 
especially owing to the bad health of a partner who was 
supposed to give active personal assistance ; and the con- 
sequence was that the proper balancing of the bank's 
accounts with its London agents, so as to explain the 
apparent discrepancy between the accounts as kept in the 
bank-books and the accounts as rendered by their agents, 
had fallen into arrear. This was a negUgence that could 
go on for a long time without impairing the general good 
management of a bank, and I remember we had some 
evidence that a similar negligence must have occurred in 
the management of another bank then and now of high 


repute in another county. It was, however, a bit of a 
private scandal, and I set myself to work to make out the 
formal reconciUation of the two sets of accounts — I may 
say of the four sets, because we had in fact two agents in 
London and the balances had not been properly adjusted 
in respect of either. I took one in hand and patiently 
went over the transactions half-year by half-year, making 
the balances again at the end of every six months, till I 
brought down the work to a triumphant close. It was an 
exercise of merely careful patience and assiduity, a pains- 
taking monotony of work ; but it was undertaken with the 
simple desire to remove irregularities, and it proved useful 
in bringing to hght one or two errors which had been over- 
looked. I had £5 given me for this performance, and, 
looking back upon it, I think the honorarium was well 
deserved. But the work was certainly not undertaken 
with the view of any such reward, which I received, indeed, 
as something unexpected. I have sometimes wondered 
what would have happened if I had continued as banker's 
clerk. I might perhaps have foUowed my father in Pen- 
zance, or, Hke my next brother, I might have been stirred 
to activity in some similar field and perhaps have drifted 
into bank management in the East, in the Colonies or 
even in London. My brother Mortimer has ended by 
becoming the permanent head of the Treasury at Ottawa. 
I might perhaps have attained to some well-paid post in 
the banking world ; but though I have ever retained the 
greatest respect for banking and bankers, I have never 
regretted the abandonment of the chance of acquiring a 
more lucrative position than has ever fallen to me. 

" My bank work nominally absorbed the day from 9 
to 4, but not unfrequently overflowed these hours. Three 
evenings a week I went to Dr. WiUan for a couple of hours, 
and the other three I was supposed to be reading for him. 
We divided our time between classics and mathematics, 
I loved EucUd, and was so expert in geometry that I believe 
I solved every problem in deduction appended to Pott's 
EucHd. I naturally took kindly to geometrical conic sec- 
tions and to trigonometry. With algebra I did not so 


easily become familiar, but ever5rthing relating to numbers 
I got under command, and I was ever fascinated with the 
elements of the Theory of Probabilities. Into Analytical 
Geometry I may be said only to have looked. It was not 
till after I went to Cambridge, and there, as it seemed, by 
some sudden penetration into a new world, that I became 
in any way a master of the methods of this latter learning. 
I read also with Dr. Willan the elements of mechanics, and 
I even opened the pages of the more familiar books of 
Newton's Principia. It may be gathered that without any 
pretensions to real mathematical genius, to which I know 
I can make no claim, I was going to the fuU length of the 
lead which my beloved tutor could give me. In classical 
learning he would have led me much further than I really 
went, and I am afraid I must accuse myself of some want 
of assiduity on this side. We read, indeed, Latin together 
until I got a real satisfaction in some of its hterature. I 
had read some Caesar at school, and with Dr. Willan I 
took up Sallust, some Livy and some Tacitus, the Germania 
and Agricola of the last exciting my strong admiration. 
We read Horace and Virgil among the poets, but for the 
latter I had then no liking. We went through also some 
half-dozen of Juvenal's Satires, the Catiline Orations of 
Cicero, and the De Senectute and De Amicitia. I may 
perhaps venture to say that I felt a real sympathy with the 
Roman character, which led me in later years to take up 
other books, including the De Rerum Natura, with its 
intermixture of noble and stately verse with the baldest 
prosaic argument. I never got any real facihty in Greek, 
and, though we tried many authors, even attacking several 
plays, I did not get any real enjoyment except in Herodotus 
and Homer. The outcome of all the hours I gave to Greek 
then and later may be best understood by the confession 
that, knowing the Authorised Version well, I could pretty 
easily stumble along in the Greek Testament. 

" I had the run of the Penzance Library, even then fairly 
stocked with the best EngUsh literature, and a friend of 
my father left imder his charge his own books whilst in 
Brazil. Of these too I had free range. They included the 


Waverley Novels and Lockhart's Scott ; and I think any 
taste I may have for fine books may be traced to copies 
of Lane's Arabian Nights and Farrell' s British Birds and 
British Fishes, which were in this collection. Much miscel- 
laneous reading was thus accomplished, though looking 
back upon it I may perhaps regret that there was not 
more guidance directing my path. There was in those 
days also a Literary Institution in Penzance, at which 
during the winter months there were weekly lectures 
occupjdng about an hour, followed by discussions for about 
another hour. I used to go home after these lectures and 
give my father and mother a sufficiently animated report 
of what had happened. My father himself never went, 
although on at least one occasion he lectured himself, 
taking for his subject Carlyle's Past and Present. This 
Institution was greatly strengthened by the arrival in 
Penzance of WiUiam Willis, who presently joined the 
Society and lectured to our great advantage on several 
branches of Natural Science. This admirable man was by 
birth a member of the Society of Friends ; but having 
married out of the Society he became, according to the rule 
then obtaining, excluded from it. He etched and pub- 
lished drawings of aU the antiquities in the immediate 
neighbourhood of Penzance, and his knowledge and taste 
and simple gentle manners strongly attracted me. After a 
time he started a botanical class, in the spring and summer 
getting a few of us youths to rise early in the morning and 
accompany him before breakfast along the lanes, fields and 
furzy moors of the neighbourhood, while he discovered to 
us a flora tiU then unknown and perhaps unsuspected. He 
left Penzance about the same time that I did, and presented 
me with pretty nearly a complete set of his etchings, which 
I still preserve. 

" I had naturally some friends and associates, but look- 
ing back on the time they seem to me to have been very 
few. I have said that my father went very httle abroad, 
and we were as a family very home-keeping ; so that my 
elder sister may perhaps be said to be more associated with 
my reading and education than any other person of the 


same age. I recall, however, three lads who, during the 
latter part of my time, were in the habit of taking walks 
on Smiday afternoons, when some volume was brought and 
read in turns by us in some secluded comer in the neigh- 
bourhood of the town. They were all older than myself. 
One of them, Richard Ohver, emigrated to Melbourne in 
1854, whence after a few years he moved to Dunedin, New 
Zealand, became very successful as a merchant, as a sheep 
farmer, and, indeed, in many forms of Colonial activity, 
becoming among other things a member of the Legislative 
Assembly and the Legislative Council, Postmaster-General 
and Minister of Public Works. Having married as his 
second wife my youngest sister in 1885, our intercourse, 
which was never broken, has again become extremely 
intimate, especially since he has returned to make England 
his home.^ 

" It is time to say something of our readings, which were 
almost exclusively of poetry. I had in early boyhood taken 
to Scott mainly for his spirited narrative. Thus I hastened 
through Marmion without reading the Introduction to the 
Cantos, which now gives me more delight than the Cantos 
themselves. My father had given me the collected edition 
of Byron in one volume when I was about fourteen, and I 
had read most of the book. Pocket volumes of Shakespeare 
I had also taken about with me in country walks, though to 
tell the truth the result was rather a succes d'estime. My 
father had also subscribed for Chambers' Cyclopaedia of 
English Literature when it was first published in monthly 
parts, and the book was a great favourite with me. Our 
Sunday afternoon readings were given to larger acquaint- 
ance with particular authors. We went through Milton's 
Paradise Lost, and no respect for his great name, nor 
appreciation of his high-strung verse could prevent us from 
scoffing at the wars of the angels and, indeed, at not a little 
of the theology of the book. I have never, indeed, become 
a great admirer of Milton, whom we English, as I think, 
habitually overrate. We read Cowper's Task and diversi- 
fied his Poems with his Letters, to the merits of which 

^ The Hon. Richard Oliver died in 1910. 


a neighbouring lecturer at the Literary Institution had 
called special attention. Wordsworth in the same way 
had his turn, but we unluckily gave too much attention to 
the Excursion. What is now scarcely credible, we read 
almost all Southey's long poems ; and if this seems to 
imply a very imperfect taste I may perhaps plead that 
Thalaba seems to have been the poem Scott most 
frequently called for in his Sunday evenings in Castle 
Street. Certain it is that we did enjoy Southey, and 
Modoc not the least. I can recall the glorious summer 
day when, walking across a furze-covered moor, the story of 
Madoc in the West got mixed with the glory of colour and 
the perfume of the furze with which it is still associated. 
Tennyson's Princess was one of our latest readings in 
those Sunday walks ; and I can claim for ourselves that 
the beauty of this poem was at once appreciated and, 
indeed, it got almost immediately re-read. One other book 
might perhaps be mentioned. I had purchased at a book- 
stall in Penzance market a copy of the first edition, in its 
original boards, of Keats' Lamia, Isabella, etc. This book, 
which I still possess, has become extremely rare ; but we 
read it with pleasure, if not with enthusiasm, in happy 
unconsciousness that it could ever be regarded as a prize by 
a bibliophile. 

" It will be seen that apart from bank work and work 
for Dr. Willan, the main interest of my early Ufe lay in 
literature ; and it may, indeed, appear remarkable how 
little influence the outer political world had upon one, the 
greater part of whose work in Hfe has been occupied with 
pontics. Penzance itself was outside the poUtical current, 
and my family and friends were apparently in the stillest 
part of this still pool. As a small boy I had been at 
Falmouth during contested elections ; but the experience 
reeked of bribery and of unintelligible personal disputes. 
Similar airs seemed to hang about what we heard of election- 
eering at St. Ives. In the County Division of West Corn- 
wall there was no such thing as a contested election and a 
poll during the whole of its existence from 1832 to 1885, 
and our life was therefore never ruffled by the agitations of 


a fight. The Repeal of the Com Laws in 1846, just after 
I left school, was, however, an event that excited emotion 
in our stiU Ufe, and I remember having to read to my father 
and mother the report of Sir Robert Peel's speech in making 
this great proposal. I should add that my father was one 
of those who, having passed through a period of speculative 
activity in early manhood, become sceptically conservative 
in later years ; and his example did not stimulate me to 
feel any interest in poUtical movements. Nevertheless, in 
less than two years after the Repeal of the Corn Laws my 
companions, whom I have already named, and myself were 
much excited by the French Revolution of 1848, heartily 
sympathising with the rising which drove Louis Phihppe 
from France ; ^ though from lack of knowledge perhaps 
more than lack of feeling we were less stirred by the move- 
ments in Italy, in Hungary and in Prussia. Not that we 
were left whoUy without knowledge of the wider movements 
on the Continent. From my earhest memory Chambers* 
Edinburgh Journal, as it was then called, had been taken in 
month by month. To its eminently sober and instructive 
pages there was added in the years of Revolution the 
People's Journal and afterwards HowiU's Journal ; and in 
these, especially in the latter, we were introduced to the 
Republican heroes of Europe. Indifference in respect of 
home pontics was thus not incompatible with a keen sym- 
pathy for much of the Continental movement. 

" The name Howitt in this last connection may fitly 
introduce another field of reminiscence. During my boy- 
hood the Quakers were still sufiiciently numerous, as they 
certainly were distinguished throughout Cornwall. The 
Foxes of Falmouth were centres of all the culture of the 
West. My father had somehow become friendly with one 
William D5niiond at Penzance, who died young, leaving a 

^ Courtney recalled the events and emotions of 184^ in an article in 
the Nation, March 24, 1917 : " The news from Russia makes me hve 
again in days gone by. I recall a night, seventy years ago save one, 
when in a remote corner near the Land's End three lads met together to 
read the story of the Revolution which had burst forth in Paris. We had 
before us a weekly paper, the News of the World, and in it we read the 
magical, swift-moving story." 


widow and three or four small children ; and I suppose he 
had rendered the widow some small assistance in winding 
up her husband's affairs. I remember being taken by him 
to her house one evening just before she left the town, when 
she presented him as a parting gift with a copy of Jonathan 
Dymond's Elements of Morality, Jonathan being her hus- 
band's brother. About the same time my sister received 
as a present Mary Howitt's httle story Strive and Thrive, 
and gradually the complete series of her Tales was added 
one by one to our possessions. I believe they might be 
read with almost equal deUght by me at this moment, and 
together they constitute a real education in sympathy for 
honest, hard-working, simple, small people which can never 
get quite old-fashioned. A schoolboy possessed William 
Howitt's Boys' Country Book, with which I was so much 
pleased that my earliest savings (they were few and very 
slowly accumulated) were devoted to getting a copy for 
myself. I am telling this story to explain something of the 
origin of my Uking for Quakers, which led me when about 
thirteen or fourteen to read through and to assimilate much 
of the aforesaid copy of Jonathan Dymond's Elements of 

At this point the story comes to an end, and, though 
often pressed to continue his narrative, the old statesman 
was never again in the autobiographical mood. To this 
sketch of his early years there is little to be added. The 
temperament and opinions of his parents wiU appear in the 
correspondence which began when their eldest son left 
home at the age of nineteen. John Sampson Courtney, 
bom in 1803, was a man of more than average ability, with 
a gift for economics and finance ; but the cares of a large 
family, added to the warning example of his light-hearted 
father, rendered him unusually reserved, while the work of 
the bank claimed almost the whole of his time and strength. 
His only relaxation was music, and his favourite hobby was 
local history, a taste inherited by most of his children. He 
wrote several statistical papers in the Transactions of the 
Cornwall Polytechnic Society, and in 1845 he published a 


substantial Guide to Penzance, " compiled," as the preface 
plaintively records, " at hours snatched from necessary 
rest." The pages on the history of the town were the fruit 
of a good deal of research ; and the volume was enriched 
by expert contributions on the geology and the botany of 
the district. Many years later, when over seventy, John 
Courtney noted down some recollections of Penzance at the 
time of his arrival in the 'twenties ; and, being prevented 
by ill -health from preparing them for publication, he 
entrusted them to his youngest daughter, who arranged the 
material and published it in 1878 as Half a Century of Pen- 
zance. In 1831 he married Sarah Mortimer, of St. Mary's, 
Scilly, and in the next nineteen years six sons and three 
daughters were bom. Sarah Courtney, in the words of 
her eldest son already quoted, was " pious, dutiful and 
loving, yet with some sense of hiunour and a large measure 
of economic aptitude." It was fortunate that she was a 
good manager, for the young couple were hard put to it to 
make both ends meet. She had been bred in straitened 
circumstances, and her whole time and thought throughout 
Hfe were given to her home and her children. For the wider 
interests of the world she had neither leisure nor incHnation. 
Fortunately for the young couple, Uving at Penzance in 
the 'twenties and 'thirties was simple and the necessities of 
hfe were cheap. " When first I came to the town in 1825 
and for some years after," wrote John Courtney in old age,^ 
" beef and mutton were sold at from 3d. to 4d. a pound ; 
in 1839 they had risen to 6d., at which price they remained 
for a considerable time. Pork was 2|d. or 3d. a pound, and 
had risen in 1839 to 4^d. or 5|^d. Fowls were never more 
than a shiUing ; eggs when plentiful were 4d. a dozen, and 
in the winter went up to yd. Butter was yd. and 8d. in 
summer and a shilling in winter. Large hakes were to be 
had for 6d., and other fish in proportion. Vegetables and 
fruit were equally cheap." The mackerels and pilchards 
of Mount's Bay were only sent to Plymouth and Bristol 
when the catch was too big to be absorbed by the town and 
district. Courtney was among the crowd which watched 

^ Hcdj a Century of Penzance. 


the first steamboat enter the harbour in 1825. At that 
time there was no gas in the town, which was Hghted by a 
few oil lamps provided by public-spirited citizens. A letter 
from London cost a shilling, and took two days on the road. 
" So few letters came to the town that for many years 
after my arrival they were dehvered by an old woman who 
carried them about in a basket." In this Celtic comer of 
England the belief in ghosts was almost universal among 
the lower classes. Several houses were beUeved to be 
haunted, and old folk were still alive who claimed to have 
heard a coach drawn by headless horses rumble through the 
town in the middle of the night. 

The charms of the Cornish Riviera were not generally 
discovered before the advent of railways, and it was not 
tiU the middle of the century that its mild climate began 
to attract invahds in large numbers. The glories of St. 
Michael's Mount were known to adventurous travellers ; 
but Penzance was cut off from the main currents of national 
Ufe and thought, and only muffled echoes of great events 
were heard. In the chosen land of rotten boroughs it was 
useless to expect a vigorous pohtical activity so soon after 
the drastic purge of the Reform Bill. But though the 
geographical situation of Cornwall was unfavourable to the 
growth and interchange of ideas, its very isolation stimu- 
lated a local patriotism unsurpassed and perhaps un- 
approached in any other county. This pride in his birth- 
place was fully shared by Leonard Courtney, who, though 
he left it in early life to seek his fortunes in a wider field, 
felt himself united by a special freemasonry with other 
Comishmen, and retained an und5dng affection for its 
rocky coasts. 

The lad was noted among the children of Penzance for 
his knowledge of the Bible, and he took full advantage of 
such slender educational facilities as were afforded by the 
sleepy old town ; but it was the discovery of his mathe- 
matical bent by Dr. Willan which set his feet on the road 
which led to fame and fortune. The doctor, a Peterhouse 
man, proved the link which connected distant Penzance 
with the world of learning ; and as the clever boy advanced 


from strength to strength, the conviction ripened in his 
teacher's mind that at all costs he must find his way to the 
University. It was true that while other lads of his age 
were devoting their full time to their studies Leonard left 
school at thirteen and gave the best hours of the day to the 
ledgers of the Bank ; yet he learned so quickly that the 
Doctor had no fear of competitors who enjoyed every 
advantage which money could provide, but lacked the gifts 
and the industry which marked him out for success. The 
intellectual interest of the teacher quickly warmed into 
personal affection, which was rewarded by the life -long 
gratitude of the disciple. Dr. Willan was to be a counsellor 
and friend through the anxieties and triumphs of his 
University career, and he survived to see his beloved pupil 
an honoured and influential figure in the public hfe of the 

Courtney's boyhood was a time of hard work and short 
holidays, and it was something of an event when his friend 
and future brother-in-law Richard OHver left Penzance for 
London in the summer of 1850, and described the wonders 
of the metropohs to the young bank clerk who had never 
been farther from home than the Scilly Isles. Though the 
repUes are lost, OUver's letters portray the thoughts and 
interests of the two friends. Despite such joys and 
privileges as an occasional visit to the Opera and hearing 
Brougham in the House of Lords, the young man felt lost 
and homesick in the great city. 

From Richard Oliver 

October 1850. — Oh ! that I could accompany you to the 
Lizard ! You have only to hitch the little blue bag round 
your neck and stuff a pasty in. The harvest moon, did you 
say ? I do not know what the sight of a cornfield is. I do not 
know whether the moon is full or eclipsed. I am mad for the 
fields. Mad for a race. Mad for a chat. Mr. New (a Penzance 
Minister) preached yesterday in the Chapel. He came home 
and we talked of you. He informed me that you had not been 
so regular in attending evening service since my departure. 
He also said that, though he never talked with you much, he 
loved you. This, of course, is the slang of the ministry. 



In reply to a request for a copy of Southey and 
Christopher North, Oliver dilates on their favourite author 
and his adventures in second-hand bookshops. 

November 1850. — I have finished The Doctor. Southey was 
a splendid fellow, worthy of ten times the favour he gained. 
He had the boldness to say what he meant, and although I 
cannot subscribe to the whole of his sentiments, he has my 
esteem for piety, genius and learning, such as few possess, I 
met with one copy of his works as good as new, price 15s., pub- 
lished at one guinea ; but I would wait a Uttle longer if I were 
you. They will be seUing at los. very soon. After several 
inquiries I have not yet succeeded in finding a copy of Christopher 
North. But I am sure to pick up both soon. 

In the spring of 185 1 the joyful news reached Ohver that 
his friend would come to London to see the Great Exhibition. 

June 18, 185 1. — You will make your debut into the great 
world, previous to a tranquil and learned retirement and with 
a glorious field in the distance for every noble ambition. The 
immediate object of the meeting I take to be in the first place 
seeing well the Exhibition. You will find that the amount of 
sight-seeing (of a lesser kind) which we can get through in a 
few days wiU astonish you. 

The visit was a triumphant success, and the time passed 
far too quickly. 

August 10, 1851. — Did you not feel a little used up when 
you got to the desk again ? It must be allowed that our time 
was very well spent, much better than a week in London gener- 
ally is. We saw the choicest pictures and statues and visited 
the very best places. I never enjoyed myself better in any 
week in my Ufe, and I have no doubt you can respond to this. 
Have you forgotten the glories of Vauxhall, or does your fancy 
roam occasionally through its avenues ? 

Happy memories of this strenuous week remained with 
both the friends to the end of their Hves. " One day in 
particular stood out above aU the others," writes Mrs. 
Oliver, " when they had a walk in the then country lanes 


and fields near Dulwich, lunched at the Greyhound Inn 
in the village and visited the Dulwich Picture Gallery. 
Throughout his Hfe my brother was fond of expatiating on 
the charm of the GaUery at Dulwich ; and Richard Ohver, 
who, many years after, married his youngest sister, often 
told her of the day spent there in 1851." 



Shortly before his visit to the Great Exhibition of 185 1 
Courtney had journeyed to Cambridge and won a sizarship 
at St. John's. He was officially admitted to the college on 
June 30, and commenced residence in the following October. 
St. John's was at this time pre-eminently the mathematical 
college. In 1846 the world had rung with the discovery of 
Neptune by John Couch Adams, one of its Fellows. Isaac 
Todhunter was elected to a Fellowship in 1849. The Master, 
Dr. Tatham, was a mathematician ; and the most active 
figure in the Hf e of the coUege during his rule was Dr. Hymers, 
whose numerous treatises famiharised Cambridge students 
with the methods and results of Continental mathematicians. 
He numbered among his pupils many men who afterwards 
rose to distinction, among them the seventh Duke of Devon- 
shire, Bishop Colenso and the subject of this biography. ^ 

The Master of St. John's has kindly drawn up a statement 
of the financial assistance which enabled Courtney to enter 
the University. " He was admitted a Sizar ; for under the 
then existing (EUzabethan) Statutes the CoUege could not 
elect Scholars before they had commenced residence. Thus 
Sizarships suppUed the place of what are now called Entrance 
Scholarships. A Sizar received no direct emolument ; but 
all fees, both College and University,' were on a reduced 
scale. In addition the College paid a sum towards the 
cost of his dinners. There were also numerous Exhibitions 
or special foundations each with special limitations — to 
founders' kin, to lads coming from certain schools, counties 

^ See Mullinger, St. John's, chap, xi., and Rouse Ball, History of Mathe- 
matics at Cambridge. 


or even parishes. When no candidate with the special 
quahfications presented himself the Exhibition was gener- 
ally awarded to one of the Sizars. Thus it frequently 
happened that a Sizar was receiving more emolument 
(direct or indirect) than a Scholar. In respect of Exhibi- 
tions Courtney received £7 in 1852,^51 in 1853, £59 in 1854 
and £46 : los. in 1855. He was elected a Scholar on 
November 7, 1854, that is to say, just before he took his 
degree. Not that he had been hitherto unsuccessful or 
ineligible, but that his combined emoluments as a Sizar 
made it unprofitable to change his status. Men who had 
been Scholars had, however, a preference in the election to 
Fellowships, and hence it was important to become a 
Scholar. The emoluments of Scholars were direct and in- 
direct, and a certain proportion of the rents was set aside 
for them. This sum was divided into fifty-two equal parts, 
one for each week in the year, and each part was divided 
among the Scholars actually resident in each week. Thus 
the emolument depended on two factors — the length of 
residence and the number of Scholars resident in any week. 
Out of the amount due to a Scholar his dinners were paid 
and an allowance towards the rent of his rooms was made 
to him. The balance, which was handed over to him in 
cash, may be taken roughly as £20. But as Courtney was 
not elected Scholar till just before his degree, this hardly 
affected his circumstances during his undergraduate career." 
Though the young Comishman was used to frugal Hving 
his combined emoluments were insufficient for his keep ; 
and his father had to borrow from the Bank to make up the 
difference, the debt being repaid by instalments by Leonard 
himself. In addition to the college dinner, to which he 
doubtless did justice, his food consisted at first of a brown 
loaf and tea for breakfast and supper, to which butter, 
marmalade and sausages were added as means increased. 
His principal correspondents were his father, his mother 
and Dr. Willan, each of whom deals mainly with a special 
aspect of his fife, — the first with his financial position, the 
second with creature comforts and the care of his soul, the 
third with the progress of his studies. 


From his Mother 

October i8, 185 1. — I was glad to hear you had not much 
trouble with getting your lodgings. I hope you are comfortable 
in them. Are there more young men in the house ; do you take 
your meals by yourself or have you company? Does los. per 
week include washing ? #Be careful that your linen is quite 
dry before wearing them. I must say like father I would have 
given a shilling to have seen you selecting your chamber sendee 
and other things. 

Cornwall was far too distant for a Christmas visit, and 
the first term's bills arrived in Penzance without oral 

From his Father 

January 14, 1852. — For a minute or two after the receipt 
of your bill I was a Uttle surprised, but on looking it over found 
there was nothing beyond what I could expect, and your mother 
to my astonishment proclaimed it moderate. I have from the 
first anticipated that the commencing term would be expensive. 
Now I wish you most fully to understand that though I expect 
economy I do not wish you to be oppressed with a fear that 
you are running me too hard. Go on with your studies as 
coolly and quietly as possible, expend what is needed and let 
me find the means of keeping up the race. I shall leave it to 
your own discretion when to spend and when to spare ; only 
let no one laugh you into an expense which a few minutes' 
consideration m&,y point out as unnecessary. Do not be ashamed 
at sa5dng you are poor. If any man wishes to bear you down 
by his riches and expenditure let him alone or crush him down 
by intellect. Go on with a quiet calm dignity and in a short 
time no one wiU ask whether your allowance be £50 or £500 
per annum. 

While his mother had no apprehensions of extravagance, 
her loving heart dwelt anxiously on the moral dangers with 
which she conceived her first-bom to be surrounded in the 
uncharted world through which he was sailing ; and, 
though he never gave her the shghtest cause of distress, her 
fears rather increased than diminished throughout his 
academic career. 


From his Mother 

July 13, 1852. — I trust you will always do what is right 
and never be tempted in any way to do what would cause you 
grief and sorrow and you would be ashamed of after it was 
done. I always think and pray for you going to bed and before 
rising that you may be kept from the many snares you are 
exposed to. 

January 21, 1853. — I received the present you sent me 
and am much pleased with it. Nothing you could have sent I 
should have hked so well, and we all think it an excellent Ukeness. 
It will be often looked at by us all. You must have enjoyed 
yourself very much in London. I am not sorry you are back 
to Cambridge quietly settled to work once more. I shall feel 
more comfortable than when you were in London. I know 
that I am very foolish, but I cannot help it. I am afraid of 
the journeys, and such a dreadful accident with one of the trains 
whilst you was in London. I hope you wiU take care of yourself 
and not study too much, but take a long walk whenever the 
weather is fit. 

Sarah Courtney was naturally pleased to hear of her 
son's academic triumphs ; but she was much more interested 
in the vicissitudes of his moral and spiritual life, and she 
scarcely ever despatched a letter to Cambridge without 
earnest exhortations to right living. 

From his Mother 

January 6, 1854. — I was much pleased to receive your very 
kind letter and Pilgrim's Progress. It gave me much pleasure 
to have such an affectionate letter. The book will be much 

July 4, 1854. — (A birthday letter, accompanied by " heavy 
cake.") I wish you many, very many happy returns of the 
day. It is not hkely I shall ever spend a birthday with you 
or you with me ; but I shall never forget to pray for you that 
you may be kept from the many vices, snares and temptations 
you are exposed to and ever do that which is right and just, 
and ever remember Sabbath-day and go regularly to Church 
or Chapel. I think in the observance of the Sabbath depends 
in great measure your future conduct through life. You are 
now a man. Father and Mother have no more control over 


you ; but still I feel more anxiety about you than ever I did. 
I cannot tell you what I have felt since you left. You are the 
first in my thoughts in the morning and the last at night. It 
is impossible to tell what anxiety parents have until you are a 
parent. If it is possible there is more affection for one than 
another it is for the first-bom. You will most likely say I am 
foolish and particular. Perhaps I am and think more about 
you than is right. Should I hear anything wrong of you it 
would be the greatest trial I ever had and a terrible thing for 
your father. 

Her anxieties were unfounded, for her son had neither 
time nor inclination for frivolities. He was weU aware that 
his University career was regarded by his parents as an 
experiment which required to be justified by success, and 
he was resolved to earn as much and to work as hard as 
possible. In his third year he undertook new responsi- 
bihties which evoked a warning from home against over- 
taxing his strength. 

From his Father 

January 6, 1854. — What of your pupil ? I think much 
may result from him should he succeed ; but I would not en- 
cumber myself for the present, as I think you will have enough 
to do to attend to your own matters. Of course during the 
vacation emplojonent is another thing. 

From the first moment Courtney's eyes were set on the 
glittering prize of the Senior Wranglership. In those days 
it was the greatest distinction of University life, and the 
one event in the academic world the ne\ys of which spread 
far beyond University circles. It was obvious from the 
beginning that the young Johnian had a good chance, and 
his tutors were eager that the athlete should neglect no 
opportunity of preparing himself for the race. The college 
examinations were held in December and June, and the 
papers included both mathematical and classical subjects. 
At the end of his first term he was placed in the First Class, 
but the names were not arranged in order of merit. ^ In 

^ For the examination record I am indebted to the kindness of the 
Master of St. John's. 


June 1852 Rees was placed at the top of the First Class, 
while Courtney and Savage were bracketed fifth. Both 
were elected " Proper Sizars," whose privilege it was to sit 
at a table by themselves. ^ The completion of each year 
brought Courtney a fresh " Exhibition " and a prize of 

The Long Vacation was no holiday to an aspirant for 
high honours, and there were anxious discussions as to how 
it should be turned to the most profitable account. His 
tutor urged him to spend the summer in Cambridge and 
read with Parkinson, the well-known coach. 

From Dr. Hymers 

June 10, 1852. — You cannot do justice to yourself by solitary 
study at home. The first vacation is a very important portion 
of a student's time, and if wasted in any degree can hardly be 
retrieved. You are secure of your Goldsmith's Exhibition, and 
you will receive at least ;fio from the College at midsummer. 
If you dream away this vacation in solitary study and in mere 
revision of former work, you will see reason to repent it before 
you take your degree. 

Courtney had no intention of " dreaming away " the 
vacation, and on the same day he received a generous offer 
from his own coach. 

From Mr. Wolstoneholme 

June 10, 1852, Croydon. — I was much gratified by your 
extremely frank and open letter. I should be especially sorry 
for you to leave me now. I hope you wiU consent to come 
with me to Barmouth and to accept the Long's tuition from 
me as a gift. 

The arrangement was at once reported to Dr. Hymers, 
who replied that he would be perfectly satisfied if he were 
to read steadily for three months under the direction of an 

^ Mr. J. L. E. Hooppell sends me the following extract from his father's 
diary, October 20, 1854. " We nine Proper Sizars were photographed. 
We had to sit and stand over an hour, while fourteen or more daguerreo- 
types were made." The photo is still preserved. 


efficient tutor. That the summer had not been wasted was 
proved by the December exammation, in which the name 
of Rees again appears at the top of the First Class, with 
Courtney second and Savage third. His progress was 
watched with delight by his Penzance tutor, with whom he 
maintained a regular correspondence. 

From Dr. Willan 

December 20, 1852. — You have done nobly in the examina- 
tion. There is one man that seems to dog your heels still, 
Savage. The rest you have distanced, I hope for ever. Is 
this man a formidable opponent ? Has he a private tutor ? 
I must not forget to wish you joy of your ^^20 Exhibition, which 
will no doubt be followed up at midsummer by a Wood's Exhibi- 
tion. At the Bank to-day I saw Mr. Bolitho, who spoke in 
terms of your honourable position at St. John's that make me 
very proud of my first pupil. 

The Doctor's letters reveal the deUghtful friendship that 
bound the older to the younger man. Has Leonard ever 
come across Monk's Life ofBentley, with its amusing account 
of the controversy of Ancients and Modems ? Would he 
look at the last edition of Bekker's Gallus and Charides and 
the New Cratylus ? How had their reading in Penzance 
fitted in with the Cambridge course of study ? Was there 
any marked change in the manner of teaching Greek or 
Latin since he had left the University ? Leonard would 
perhaps be interested by a circular on decimal coinage, 
which he enclosed. The pupil retaUated by sending him 
papers on science and describing his lectures, among them 
those of the great physicist Stokes. 

The three men. Savage, Courtney and Rees, continued 
to occupy the three leading places in the First Class tiU the 
end. In May 1853 the Hst ran Savage, Rees, Courtney ; 
in December, Rees, Courtney, Savage ; in June 1854, 
Savage, Courtney, Rees. As the Tripos approached it was 
clear to every one that Savage and Courtney would run 
neck and neck for the laurel wreath, for Rees was more of a 
classic than a mathematician, and no other college could 


boast of such candidates as St. John's. " Courtney is much 
annoyed at the expectation that prevails that he will be 
Senior Wrangler," wrote his friend Hooppell in his diary, 
December 4, 1854. " I hope he will be." 'The ordeal took 
place in January 1855, and the Honours List contained 139 
names, headed by 

Savage . . . 5571 

Courtney . ^ . 5481. 

Rees was ninth Wrangler and sixth Classic, the Senior 
Classic being Montagu Butler, the future Master of Trinity. 
The congratulations from home seem a Httle stinted after 
such a triumph, the magnitude of which, however, they 
could hardly appreciate. 

From his Mother 

February 8, 1855. — It has given me much pleasure and 
satisfaction to hear of your success, and I hope with feelings 
of gratitude to the Giver of all good. You must not feel proud 
or exalted in your present position, but remember where much 
is given much will be required. 

From his Father 

With your mother I am gratified at your success and I hope 
you wiU still go on and prosper, yet with all this I do not feel 
that elation some may imagine. I think of the responsibility 
you have incurred to maintain the position you have attained, 
and I feel your present is not the conclusion but the commence- 
ment of a career. You have hitherto done weU ; take care to 
keep in the same right path. I am satisfied with all you have 
done, and what is said before is more of exhortation to continue 
to do right than anything else. . . . Let me know in your next 
something with regard to money matters. It seems you must 
go on very parcimoniously for the next twelve months, but do 
not on any account go in debt. I would rather screw up closer 
at home. Remember the outset of life is the most trying to 
the judgment, and I dread a false step. 

A more jubilant note was struck by his first teacher, who 
had followed every stage of the struggle with loving interest 
and was weU aware of its arduous character. 


From Dr. Willan 

January 27, 1855. — Dear Leonard, lo triumphe ! lo ! lo ! 
I shall complete Ay paeaji when I hear that you are first Smith's 
Prizeman, which I expect you will be. Let me hear all about 
yourself, what your plans are, whether you intend to put in 
for the Moral Sciences and whether you intend to enter yourself 
at one of the Inns of Court, and if so whether you will not take 
part in the debates of the Union. But by the way you should 
have some breathing time, not enough I suppose to nm down 
here, where you will readily understand that the Cambridge 
Tripos is just now the tcdk of the town. I wish I could be in 
the Senate House on Monday and at your Bachelors' dinner, 
if such gatherings exist at this day as they did in mine. I have 
thoughtlessly assumed that your work is over ; but the Smith 
and the Moral Sciences will keep the bow bent some time longer. 

The next goal was not far distant. On the Monday 
following the granting of degrees the second race was run. 
Savage and Courtney were bracketed equal as Smith's 
Prizemen, a distinction less imderstood by the outside world 
than the Senior Wranglership, but generally accepted by 
mathematicians as perhaps a stiU more striking certificate 
of merit, since pace coimted for less than in the tripos. 

From Dr. Willan 

February 5, 1855. — ^These second laurels are scarcely more 
than I expected after the first had been so nobly won. I never 
doubted the large capabilities of my distinguished pupil. I 
should Hke to know in what points your friend Savage was 
senior. Did that tiresome hot-pipe give you your cold and him 
his seniority ? Mrs. Willan is I believe prouder of your having 
been my pupil than you are of your Smith's prize. Have you 
had enough of exams or do you intend to have a slap at the 
Moral Sciences ? 

His grandfather wrote cordially of his success, adding 
that he had never doubted his abilities. Once again the 
congratulations from home were mingled with reproaches 
and suspicions that were the harder to bear since they were 
whoUy undeserved. 


From his Mother 

February 23, 1855. — I expected to have had a long letter 
from you yesterday and how I was disappointed when it was 
given to me. Your letters have been nothing more lately than 
little scraps. When you are really busy I am contented with 
a line or two. What is it you are so engaged about at present 
that you cannot spare one hour in the course of a week to write 
home ? I am sadly afraid you are indulging in some measure 
of gaiety that is not right. If this be the case, give it up. If 
you knew how anxious your father and I am about you and 
what a night I passed last night grieving and thinking of you, 
I do not think you would act so. You know you have one of 
the best of fathers and you ought to treat him as such. Write 
him oftener and tell him what you are about and not leave 
him to hear from others what he should hear from you. I 
would rather be treated unkindly than he should be. Unkind- 
ness from my children, — how could I bear it ? The very thought 
is dreadful. My dear, dear boy, I am feeling so agitated and 
distressed that I scarcely know what I am writing. Never 
neglect your parents that think so much about you. I have 
been too proud of you, and the Lord in mercy is making me to 
feel more humble. I never felt so sorrowful about you since 
you first left home. 

A Second Wrangler and Smith's Prizeman might fairly 
hope for a Fellowship, and Courtney stayed on at Cambridge 
taking pupils and waiting for the crowning recognition of 
his merit. His mother was now beginning to realise that 
her son was a man of first-rate abiUty and that a dis- 
tinguished career lay before him ; but she could never 
surrender herself to the tranquil enjoyment of his fame, 
and every success seemed to her anxious mind to bring 
fresh dangers in its train. 

From his Mother {on his birthday) 

July 4, 1855. — I trust you will not live only to be a great 
man as far as this world is concerned but a good, ever doing 
what is right. I hope you will be successful with your pupils. 
Whatever you get, Uttle or much, you must be careful. 


February 22, 1856. — I hope you are not gay and too fond 
of company. The very position you have taken in society 
may be the very means of bringing you into gay and thought- 
less company. I think more about you than all the others put 

On March 11, 1856, Courtney was elected to a Fellow- 
ship at St. John's, for which the way had been smoothed 
by an unexpected occurrence. The career of the Senior 
Wrangler had already reached a speedy and tragic close. 
" He was a pale, rather sickly-looking man with darkish 
hair," writes Dr. Bonney, " rather narrow in the chest, and 
with sloping shoulders. One afternoon in the Lent Term, 
before the Fellowship election, he went out alone for a 
walk. He did not return from it, and the next day was 
found dead in a shallow ditch in the fields about a mile from 
the college. Death was due to hemorrhage on the brain. 
It was supposed that, as he took some interest in botany, 
he had leaned forward to gather a plant and this had sufficed 
to rupture a vessel." 

" The value of the Fellowship was £160 a year, with 
commons in Hall and an allowance for the rent of rooms," 
writes the Master of St. John's. " Under the Ehzabethan 
Statutes a Fellow had to be in Priest's orders within a 
certain number of years from his M.A. degree ; but an 
exception was made in favour of two FeUows who pursued 
the study of medicine. By Royal Letters Patent of Charles 
I. this privilege was extended to two Fellows who pursued 
the study of law. These were called Law Fellows, and 
Courtney was the last of them, holding it until his marriage 
in 1883, when under the general rule then affecting Fellow- 
ships he vacated it. At the same time he returned the 
emolmnents for the years 1881, 1882 and 1883, leaving the 
disposal of the moneys to the discretion of the coUege, by 
whom it was used from time to time to piurchase books and 
apparatus. He was elected an Honorary Fellow in 1884 
and remained one till his death." The Fellowship was 
supplemented by coaching ; but warnings and exhortations 
continued to arrive from Penzance. 


From Ms Father 

October 25, 1856. — I had rather you had not so many pupils ; 
but as the period is short you must try to arrange matters so 
as to make use of every spare minute for out of door exercise. 
I can see the Law can progress but Httle for some time ; still, 
however trifling the advance, you must keep the onward course. 
At the time you name you ought at least to have saved enough 
to pay the fee, and your Fellowship and Tancred should then 
be sufficient to keep other matters afloat. It is useless to do 
things by halves. If you would succeed you must learn to 
put the constraint on inclination until you have fixed your 
foot firm in the ground. Your mother often observes whatever 
your gains they seem to be always swallowed up ; and although 
I to her put on a good face, yet in my inmost heart I fear at 
times you have not been so prudent as you ought. My dear 
fellow, consider the uncertainty of the position of the family 
if anything should happen to me, and make the most of every 
opportunity. I do not mean to be a miserly niggard, but do 
not consider a thing necessary because some one richer than 
yourself has it. The great curse of the times is the desire of 
cutting a dash, being in appearance something you are not in 
reahty, inquiring, when we are about to do a thing, what will 
Mr. So and So say, instead of saying. Do my circumstances 
justify my doing it ? Be for the future independent of all such 
circumstances and be firm in doing only what is right. I 
have written this because I find myself unable to do what I 
could formerly accomphsh with little difficulty, and having 
also a feehng of greater responsibihty as to the younger ones. 
Mortimer is justly entitled to some exertion on my part to 
place him in a better position. The three little ones have also 
their claims. May I live to see them at least in a course to 
take care of themselves. 

Despite the anxious pleas for strict economy addressed 
to him from home the young Fellow considered himself 
entitled to a trip abroad after five years of strenuous study ; 
and in September he paid the first of many visits to Paris, 
returning home through Belgium. The tour was keenly en- 
joyed, and implanted the love of pictures which remained with 
him throughout hfe. A year later he spent his September 
holiday in England, and his adventures are described in the 
earliest of the chatty letters home which have been preserved. 


To his Mother 

September 8, 1857. — ^ ^^ ^o* think last week that I should 
be able to tell you to-day that I have since then visited Yar- 
mouth, the home of the " bloater." I went down to Lowestoft 
on Saturday afternoon with Roby, walked over to Yarmouth 
on the Sunday and returned by the last train last night, calling 
on the way for two or three hours at Norwich. We left Cam- 
bridge at I '20 and reached Lowestoft at about half -past six ; 
the coast there is very unlike ours, there are no rocks and scarcely 
anything deserving the name of cHff. Yarmouth is a very 
quaint old place ; it has a long quay running along the bank 
of the river and skirted by hmes and poplars. 'Twas well 
filled with shipping, some of the houses old and picturesque ; 
there is also a fine open fish market with the parish church, a 
very large fine building, on one side and close by it a hospital 
for decayed fishermen. But the most peculiar part of the town 
is the assemblage of rows. A row is a very narrow alley about 
six feet broad with tall houses grimly facing one another on 
each side of it. Yarmouth is not so much frequented by visitors 
as the more fashionable Lowestoft, nor is it so well suited for a 
family, but I would certainly rather go there of the two. On 
a green running between the river and the sea (the course of 
the former being for some time nearly parallel with the shore 
till it turns sharply round into* the sea) is a handsome monument 
which the people of Norfolk have erected to Nelson, a native 
of the county. We left Yarmouth in the evening for Lowestoft. 
Yesterday afternoon we left Lowestoft and stopped on the way 
at Norwich ; I was extremely pleased with this old city. In 
the middle of it rises a hiU crowned with the keep of the old 
castle now converted into the county-prison, and from a walk 
around it a series of fine views of the city can be obtained. The 
cathedral is a very fine specimen of Norman architecture, but 
within it has been allowed to be disfigured and has as yet escaped 
the renovating spirit of the time. The cloisters are remarkably 
fine, second only to Gloucester. There are about thirty parishes 
in the city and some of the churches are fine buildings, also a 
Music Hall where the Festival takes place next week, a new and 
handsome Free Library and an extensive open market place 
with a statue in the centre of the great Duke of Wellington, 
whose son, the present Duke, I saw riding through one of the 
streets. I have come to the end of my journey and my paper : 
to-day I resumed work. By next week my pupils will have 


To his Mother 

Manchester, September 22, — I arrived here last evening 
having left Cambridge by the eariy train. This morning I went 
down to the Exhibition and kept steadily working at the pictures 
for about six hours and so saw about four hundred pictures ; 
at this rate it will take two more days to go through the pictures 
of the Old Masters and I shall still have the thousand or more 
of Modem Artists, the engravings, etchings, statues, and all 
the elegancies of porcelain. It is clear I might easily spend a 
fortnight at it, but I do not expect that all the schools will 
deserve as much attention as that I have been over to-day, 
which was the ItaUan. I began with Cimabue and Giotto and 
thence passed through the works of Era Angelico and Era Eilippo 
Lippi to Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Correggio, then the 
Venetians, Titian, Giorgione, Paul Veronese, Giulio Romano, 
and the later Caracci, Andrea del Sarto, Domenichino, Guido, 
Sassoferrato, Carlo Dolce. These are the names which we first 
became acquainted with through the Pictorial Bible and have 
since seen in their glory of colour in Academies and Museums. 
The arrangement is entirely chronological and so very instructive. 
To-morrow I shall begin with the Flemish artists and go down 
the Elemish and German history ; the early specimens will I 
suppose remind me of the things I saw at Bruges and Ghent 
this time last year. I could go into ecstacies on the colouring 
of the Venetians that I have seen to-day. The portraits of 
Titian are wonderful ; there is one of Ariosto which fills you 
with delight, such a jolly fine fellow, you see how keenly he 
felt aU pleasure, his short brown curly beard, his honest open 
face and noble bearing inspire you with a sense how pleasant 
must have been his converse. Then there are two or three 
members of the Medici family, the first Cosimo and his son, fine 
noble looking men, another of Pope JuUus the Second, two or 
three Cardinals, etc. Then there are two or three very fine 
pictures of Raphael, two Holy Eamihes in especial, then some 
of John Bellini famous in design, character and colouring. I 
could run on about these things and, fetching the interleaved 
catalogue which I have bought, detail to you my notes, but 
what need of doing so ? 

The next letter describes the college life of the young 
Fellow during the last term of his University career. 



To his Mother 

November 3, 1857. — I can only afford time for two or three 
lines this week as I am and have been and shall be very busy 
for the next part of it. I am bound to own that dinner engage- 
ments have partly occupied me. Last Thursday was the audit 
dinner at Christ's College, and I suppose as a matter of course 
I was taken in by the Tutor. On Saturday the Master gave 
one of his dinner parties. These apparently occur once a week 
and will in the course of the term run through the list of Fellows. 
Monday was the day of our Scholarship Election and of course 
a dinner party in our hall. This afternoon a meeting of the 
Fellows to discuss some more propositions, when I submitted 
two which after considerable discussion were rejected by about 
two to one ; they are on the conditions of tenure of Fellowships. 
At Christmas our functions as to initiating statutes terminate 
and we shall have to consider any that may be sent us. All 
this with my lecturing and pupils have occupied my time, 
indeed I am obUged to receive some of the latter three days 
a week in the evenings ; but I am very weU and intend to 
continue so. Tell Margaret I had already thought of buying 
Browning for myself, but she shall have its refusal if I get it. 
I have consented to be one of the six College Examiners at 

College reform, to which reference is thus casually made, 
was at this time exercising the mind of most of the younger 
and many of the older members of the University. In 
response to an influential memorial Lord John Russell had 
in 1850 appointed a Royal Commission to inquire into the 
constitution of Oxford and Cambridge and to make pro- 
posals for reform. The Commission reported in 1852, and 
in 1856 an Executive Commission was created to carry out 
the suggested improvements. The colleges were permitted 
to frame new statutes before 1858, failing which the 
Commission might make proposals which could only be 
rejected by a two-thirds majority of the governing body. 
Many of the irksome restrictions of the Elizabethan code 
thus disappeared, though several others lingered on for 
another decade. Courtney's modest share in the discus- 
sion, which turned on such subjects as the tenure of fellow- 
ships, celibacy and college livings, is recalled in some notes 


kindly supplied by Dr. Liveing, for many years Professor 
of Chemistry. 

" Lord Courtney was five years my junior in the 
University, and though I was one of the College lecturers 
when he came up he never attended my lectures and I did 
not make his acquaintance until he became a Fellow in 
1856. On the day of election of new Fellows, the two junior 
Fellows on the old list used to invite the other resident 
Fellows to supper and there introduce to them those newly 
elected. In the fifties the subject which most engaged our 
attention was that of University and College reform. A 
Commission under the Universities Act was busy with 
reforms, and those who wished for changes used often 
to meet in small parties, after the four o'clock dinner, 
in each other's rooms, to discuss their plans ; but I cannot 
remember exactly what Hne Courtney took in these discus- 
sions. Certainly he was not prominent : indeed, as he was 
quite a junior, he probably thought it better to be only a 
hstener. In 1857 the whole body of Fellows had to prepare 
new statutes for the College, and there were regular meet- 
ings for this purpose and much serious discussion. In this 
Courtney took part, but it was not a very prominent part : 
he was cool headed, formed his opinions deUberately and 
gave good reasons for his judgments. On many of the 
questions which arose he joined the reformers in private 
discussions, and his influence went generally to make the 
changes proposed very moderate, so much so that such of 
them as were rejected by the College as a whole at that 
time were afterwards adopted when the statutes were again 
revised in 1881. I look back on those days with much 
satisfaction because, notwithstanding much difference of 
opinion, the prosperity of the College as a whole was 
never forgotten, or the happy social relations between the 
Fellows ever shaken." 

The young Fellow's personal appearance is described by 
Dr. Bonney, later Professor of Geology, the only other 
survivor of the academic circle of St. John's in the fifties. 
" Courtney was full middle height, rather squarely built, 
giving one the idea of considerable physical strength and 


with rather regular features ; but I remember that even 
then his eyes seemed a httle weak. The appearance of 
some men alters greatly as they pass from youth to old age. 
I have known well several men as imdergraduates who have 
been so transformed as to be unrecognisable when they had 
left sixty behind them. It was not so with Courtney, for 
the continuity in his aspect was maintained to the end. 
He gave one the impression of a hard-working, thoughtful 
and unexcitable man." 

A more intimate picture of the young don in his leisure 
hours is given by Mrs. BusheU and her sister. " We were 
schoolroom children in those far-away days, ages twelve 
to fourteen more or less. We were almost too young 
perhaps and ignorant to diagnose the character of a man 
of such force and personahty as he imdoubtedly was even 
then. But I think we chiefly recollect him as a very kind 
friend who would come and talk and laugh with us and 
play games galore and every now and again bring us sweets 
and bonbons ! My mother was a gifted woman and an 
excellent conversationahst, and, looking back, Mrs. Theo- 
bald and I think he used to Uke to talk to her and teU her 
about himself and his aims. She was very witty with a 
broad outlook on the world in general. I am inclined to 
think he found going out to Hows Close our home some 
mUe or so out of Cambridge a relaxation from his strenuous 
University life, and, as I hope and beUeve, found his hfe's 
work and struggle of those days easier for an occasional inter- 
lude of fun and laughter with our family. Perhaps he was 
rather plain, but I don't remember that we ever thought 
about his physical aspect. He was just a kind friend who 
would come and see us from time to time. Always bright, 
always nice as we children called him, and we enjoyed his 
visits thoroughly. Of course we gradually lost sight of 
him, but we watched his career by means of newspapers 
with the greatest interest to the end of his long and dis- 
tinguished Kfe. I remember how interested he was in the 
visit of a certain Miss Beckett (I think that was her name), 
an elderly lady with glasses, who used to visit an uncle of 
mine Hving in Cambridge. She was a — perhaps the — - 


pioneer of the Women's Movement, She was older than 
he, I think, but I can remember how shocked he was when 
we young impertinencies laughed at her ; we did not in the 
least tmderstand the seriousness of her crusade, while he did 

Courtney had never worn his heart on his sleeve, and he 
only unbosomed himself to chosen friends. " I asked him 
if he were not very reserved," wrote HooppeU in his diary, 
October 31, 1854, " which led to a long conversation. I 
was very glad that it had taken place, for now my mind 
is at ease, — Courtney is no more to me the reserved, inscrut- 
able companion he used to be." There was, however, a 
certain austerity about him, corresponding to his gospel 
of the strenuous life. " Bishop Selwyn preached at the 
University Church," records the same diarist, November 
26, 1854, " an exceedingly good sermon. Courtney after- 
wards said it was remarkably Carlylese on the point of 
the purifying influence of work." Carlyle had been the 
favourite teacher of his youth, and at the age of twelve 
he had written a critique of Past and Present in his diary ; 
and although on coming to years of discretion he trans- 
ferred his allegiance to Mill, he never forgot the virile 
counsels and fortifjdng maxims of Sartor Resartus. 

Courtney's hfe at Cambridge had been one of unremit- 
ting labour, allowing no time for such distractions as the 
Union or for the cultivation of a wide circle of friends. 
Intercollegiate lectures were not yet invented. " An 
undergraduate belonged to his coUege exclusively," writes 
Leshe Stephen of Cambridge in the fifties.^ " He knew of 
' out college ' men only through school friendships or meet- 
ings in the rooms of his private tutor. The University was 
for him a mere abstraction, except when it revealed itself 
as the board of examination for ' Uttle go ' and degree." 
The prosaic atmosphere of the University, untroubled by 
an " Oxford movement " or by philosophic doubt, was 
singularly conducive to tranquil study. Classics and mathe- 
matics reigned supreme. Teachers and students pursued 
concrete and Hmited aims, and liked to feel firm ground 

^ Life of Fawcett, chap. iii. 


under their feet.^ Courtney was always a strenuous 
worker ; but at no time of his life did he toil so unremit- 
tingly and with so few relaxations as during his University 
career. He was happy enough at St, John's, and with his 
Fellowship and his pupils he could Hve in tolerable comfort ; 
but as no College or University appointment was in sight, 
and as he was anxious to help his father with the education 
of the younger children he determined to seek his fortune 
in London. His resolve, however, was not the result of 
economic pressure alone. When the arduous struggle for 
academic honours was over he had time to think about 
pubhc affairs, and his interest in poHtics developed rapidly. 
" I cannot imagine you passing a life of learned leisure 
secluded from the great world," wrote a friend in May 
1857. The decision was quickly taken, and at the end of 
the autumn term Courtney left Cambridge for London and 
the law. 

^ Cp. Leslie Stephen, Sketches from Cambridge, chap, xii., 1865. " We 
leave theology to theologians and mind our classics and mathematics. 
Our prevailing tone is what I should venture to describe as quiet, good 


Lincoln's inn 

Courtney left Cambridge for London a few days before " 
Christmas 1857 and settled down to the study of law, 
residing first at Fig Tree Court, Temple. His chambers 
after his call to the Bar on June 17, 1858,^ were at Lincoln's 

The event moved his mother to a birthday letter in 
which her deep love for her first-bom breaks through the 
crust of reserve. 

From his Mother 

July 21, 1858. — How much better you have done than 
could be expected, and we all should be very thankful you 
have done so well ; but remember, my dear Leonard, where 
much is given much is required. There is more expected of 
those that have five talents than there is of those that have 
but one. Nothing in this life would give me greater pleasure 
than to spend a day with you. That cannot be, but I will not 
forget to pray for you. How rapidly the time has flown, twenty- 
six years. I can see you now a Httle baby in my arms, my first- 
bom darling boy. Now you are a man and in a little time I 
shall be gone ; but I hope we shall both live in this world so 
that whenever death may come we may be found ready for that 
happy state where there shall be no separation. 

Leonard kept his mother well informed as to his move- 
ments and occupations ; and her apprehensions of moral 
and spiritual dangers passed gradually away. 

^ Mr. Frederic Harrison was called on the same day. 


To his Mother 

May 22, 1858. — I shall begin to read with some conveyancer 
in the course of a week or so, 

August 9. — You must not think it is because I do not value 
your last letter that I have left it unanswered up to this time. 
I did not get it till after my birthday. I was at Cambridge on 
that day. We began very oddly talking about birthdays and 
it then struck me for the first time that it was the sixth. I 
warrant you had thought of it often before on that day. I 
hope dear Mother we may hve to spend the sixth of July together. 
You know if I cannot come to Cornwall it is possible for Mamma 
to come to London, and I hve in hopes of that some day taking 
place. It seems most probable that my wanderings will be 
confined to Cambridge after aU. 

A better fate was reserved for him, and he enjoyed a 
holiday in the Lakes and Scotland. In the spring of 1859 
Mrs. Courtney left West Cornwall for the first and last time, 
for the marriage of her second daughter at Clifton. Leonard 
came down for the festivities ; and her great joy is reflected 
in her last birthday letter. 

From his Mother 

July 3, 1859, — How often I think of the few days we spent 
together in Clifton ; the pleasure I felt in having you with me 
in the evenings was the best part of my journey. Shall I ever 
have such pleasure again ? I have been very weak and poorly 
for a long time. Love, prayers and kisses. 

To his Mother {in reply) 

July 23. — I received your good letter on my birthday. I 
am going this afternoon to Hertford and next week I shall go 
on to Cambridge, where I think of remaining for at least a month. 
The weather here has been very hot and work is not very plenti- 
ful in chambers, so that I shall be glad to ^et away into the 
country. I should very much enjoy spending a few weeks at 
Scilly. It is fourteen years since I was there. I hope that the 
sea breezes and visit to Tresco have done you good. I could 
half quarrel with you for being unwell, and as to fretting and 
anxiety I am surprised at it and hope you will forget it as soon 
as possible. 


August 2 (St. John's College). — On axriving here I found 
comparatively few Fellows in residence. The grounds are 
very beautiful, and it is very much cooler than it is in London. 
I am reading a httle law, and if I can keep on at it I do not 
know when I shall go away. 

" The Long " was enlivened by a visit from the friend 
who watched every step of his career with loving interest. 

From Dr. Willan 

August 20, 1859. — The few days I passed with you in our 
dear old Alma Mater will appear as a charming episode in the 
tale of My Life whenever I favour the world with that valuable 
piece of autobiography. 

Among the friends of the young Fellow to whom the 
Doctor was introduced were the faithful Roby, and Ferrers, 
afterwards Master of Caius. In the autumn Mrs. Courtney's 
health, which had been failing for several years, grew 
rapidly worse ; but since the happy meeting at Chfton she 
had whoUy ceased to worry about her absent son. 

From his Mother 

November 4, 1859. — I can assure you I have not one anxious 
thought about you to retard my recovery ; but you must not 
think to find me anything like well at Christmas. With such 
an illness one can't expect to be anything but an invalid all 
the winter. 

Before the end of the year she was dead. Her life had 
been something of a struggle, and she had had less than 
her share of sunshine and light-hearted happiness ; but 
her children retained a loving memory of her simple piety 
and self-sacrificing devotion. John Courtney and his eldest 
son possessed some common intellectual interests in which 
Sarah Courtney had been unable to share, among them a 
love of Cornish antiquities. When a new and cheaper 
edition of the Guide to Penzance was called for, the author 
forwarded the publisher's letter and asked his son for 
criticisms and additions. 


From his Father 

August 31, 1861. — What would you say of this ? I will 
send up the MSS. for your alteration ; or wiU you have my 
interleaved copy ? I daily write something, I should say 
nightly, as it is all done after 10. I intend it to be about the 
size of the last book, but more exact. Can you give any hint 
about the hiU castles in this neighbourhood and the fortified 
headlands ? They puzzle me by the great number, for West 
Penwith could never contain many inhabitants to fight these 
battles some people seem mad about, neither was it so rich as 
to attract plunderers. Between us we must work out this 

Leonard, who had only too much leisure on his hands, 
took his duties as revising editor very seriously, and a mass 
of notes and marginal additions embody the fruits of his 
researches. The young barrister, once settled in London, 
proceeded to play the part of guide, philosopher and friend 
to his brothers and sisters, though his financial position was 
not very promising. Mortimer came to town early in 1859 
and lived with Leonard till he started in i860 for India, 
finally settling in Canada, where a distinguished career 
awaited him. William joined the bachelor menage in the 
same year, going daily to the City of London School before 
entering the office of the Ecclesiastical Commission and 
winning his spurs as an antiquarian. A third brother, 
Acutt, entered the circle in 1861 and accompanied William 
to his school. An amusing letter from his sister Margaret 
informs Leonard that she heard from a friend that he had 
grown stouter " and rather more fashionable in appearance." 
A letter to his father describes the migration of the Courtney 
colony from Gray's Inn to Bloomsbury, which was to be 
his home for ten years. 

To his Father 

September 17, 1861. — We are still here, but this morning I 
took, subject to the references being all right, a set of rooms 
at No. 35 Great Ormond Street, next door to a house Margaret 
and I went into called Ormond Chambers, the fine staircase of 


which she may remember. Our set is on the ground floor. 
The rent and all attendance is to be £50 per annum. I hope 
to get in by Saturday. Before taking this set I had perambu- 
lated many streets and seen many apartments and at last in- 
serted an advertisement in last Friday's Times. " A gentleman 
and two brothers (16 and 14) require unfurnished apartments 
with attendance. Within two miles N. or N.W. of St. Paul's. 
Dine at home three times a week." I got nearly thirty answers 
at prices ranging from £30 to £70. The other low priced ones 
were either at too great a distance or in very bad neighbourhoods 
or small dismal rooms. The boys get on very well and promise 
to continue to do so. 

The Bar proved even more disappointing to Courtney 
than to most youthful aspirants, and the Cambridge Fellow- 
ship had to be supplemented by examinerships and journal- 
ism. An occasional excursion to the provinces proved a 
welcome change to one who retained throughout life a 
passion for visiting old cities and churches. 

To his sister Margaret 

June 23, 1863, 4 Powis Place. — I said just now at tea-time 
that it was the 23rd of June, but Will could or would attach 
no significance to the announcement. I suppose by this time 
(nine o'clock) the tar barrels have been set out and lit, and lads 
are going up and down Market Jew Street waving their torches 
by way of prelude to the more furious fun of rockets : it is six 
years since I was home on Midsummer Eve nor does it seem 
hkely that I shall be in Penzance again on that night for a long 
time, if ever. I came back last Thursday afternoon having 
enjoyed my excursion very much. Examining boys is hard 
enough work but" it has many pleasures, especially when you 
are taken away to a nice old city Uke York and are entertained 
with due hospitality. Boys and girls of a still tenderer age 
are the finest things in existence ; it is a great pity that they 
degenerate so. As Charles Lamb said of the Eton cricketers. 
Who would not regret their becoming mere magistrates and 
Members of ParUament ? I left this place on Monday week by 
the 12 o'clock train, the weather was very pleasant. I had 
engaged to meet my feUow-examiner Stebbing at Peterborough. 
We took up our abode at Hawker's Hotel, a very comfortable 
house, one of the best in York. As our expenses are paid, the 


hotel bill is sent in by Stebbing to the Chapter Clerk, who 
is also the school clerk, who reimburses it. On Thursday we 
dined at the Head Master's, the Rev. Canon Hey ; he gave 
us a very good dinner, but somehow or other his wines were 
execrable. Even an undermaster afterwards confided to me 
his wonder at their quality. Next day we dined at Mr. Daniel's, 
the Head Master of Archbishop Holgate's school, a sort of 
middle class school which we examine by the way ; the dinner 
there was very swell in all respects, and was honoured by the 
presence of no less than the Lord Mayor of York. I came south 
to Grantham where I stopped Tuesday, Wednesday, and part 
of Thursday; 'twas examination week there. We went on to 
Belvoir ; it rained so we spent our time inside the castle which 
I had seen before in 1856 after an Easter walking tour in Derby- 
shire. However I was well pleased to see it again, and dis- 
covered many things which I had not noted or appreciated 
before ; a lot of miniatures in the drawing-room detained me 
some time. Kdnsinan sent me his catalogue some time since. 
Will thinks it would be desirable to secure the History of Henry 
Earl of M or eland, in verse is. 6d., and I have rather a hankering 
after Madame D'Arhlay's Diary and Letters, 7 vols. 14s. 

In 1865 Louise, the youngest member of the family, 
left home for London ; but, though she resided in Bedford 
College, she looked up to her elder brother as her guardian 
and guide, and her reminiscences throw a vivid light on 
the occupations and interests of Leonard's early years in 

" My earliest recollections of my brother are of a strong 
big man and an old one. My father naturally seemed of 
great age and my ' big brother Lilly,' as I called him, not 
much younger. No wonder that I thought him strong, 
since one of my first memories is being carried on his shoulder 
for an endless journey on a summer evening. A few years 
later I remember him reading aloud to my mother, and I 
played with my doll and Ustened at times. He was reading 
Scenes from Clerical Life, and ' Amos Barton ' must have 
attracted my attention, as ever since those childish days 
I have had a vivid picture in my imagination of ' little 
Dicky Barton well wrapt up as to his chest but very red 
and bare as to his legs in Mrs. Hackitt's poultry yard.' I 


think I must have been eight, and there are other impres- 
sions in my mind of readings to my mother or talks with 
her about books before she died a Uttle more than a year 
later. Tennyson's May Queen was one reading, and I 
certainly heard about Adam Bede and John Halifax, Gentle- 
man, and must have been hstening when he read Browning's 
Evelyn Hope, as it haunted me ; and I have a distinct 
recollection of being found a httle later reading it and being 
told I was a morbid little girl. 

" Concerning his life at Cambridge I have only vague 
ideas of hearing about his rooms and of dining in Hall. I 
used to look at the photographic group, the Senior Wrangler 
of 1855 Savage, and the next two Courtney and Elsee, 
which hung on our dining-room wall. The poems I had 
from my brother on Valentine's Day and Advent Sunday — 
The Feast Day at Penzance — were far more interesting. 
In after years I remember hearing of one incident which 
connected the time when the news of Leonard's place in the 
Mathematical Tripos reached Penzance with Charles Lamb's 
Schooldays. The C. V. Le G. of Lamb's essay, Christ's 
Hospital Five and Thirty Years Ago, Hved in 1855 and for 
many years previously near Penzance, and on hearing the 
news of Leonard's success walked into the town to see my 
father and congratulate him, Mr. C. V. Le Grice being then 
eighty-two. From ten to fifteen I do not think I could 
have seen very much of my brother, but I remember talks 
about the reviews he wrote of Miss Yonge's Christian 
Names and other books for The Times. These reviews very 
much interested my father and the elder members of the 
family, and I recollect the enthusiasm with which Dr. 
Willan talked to me about them. 

" Just after I was fifteen I went to Bedford College, and 
during the four years I was there I was much with my 
brothers. For the greater part of the time I had three in 
London and spent every Sunday with them. At that 
time Bedford College was in Bedford Square, and Leonard 
and a younger brother lived in Powis Place close to Queen's 
Square, Bloomsbury. Early in the morning Leonard came 
for me and we walked to St. Peter's, Vere Street, where he 


had sittings. Frederick Denison Maurice was the clergyman 
there, and Leonard was his great admirer and follower. 
The service was long, slow and I thought very dull. But 
there was one part of the service to which I always looked 
forward, and that was when Mr. Maurice gave the Lord's 
Prayer at the beginning of the Communion Service. The 
beauty of the Prayer, with his reverent way of saying it, 
can never be forgotten. One other memory of the Church 
is the fervour with which my brother used to sing some of 
the hymns. After Church we sometimes met friends and 
had walks with them. Mr. Thornton (Thornton, On Labour) 
was one, and he and Leonard discussed questions of the 
day. I hstened to their talk, and probably my interest in 
Pohtical Economy began with these walks. Mr. Westlake 
and his wife were other friends who went to Vere Street 
Chiu-ch. Every few weeks we walked across the Park to 
Mr. and Mrs. Roby's house in Pimlico, and lunched with 
them. The Robys were both ardent Liberals, both much 
interested in education, Mr. Roby being at that time with 
the Endowed School Commission, and Mrs. Roby working 
with some of the schemes for the advancement of the 
education of women. More political talk and Cambridge 
doings characterised these very friendly httle luncheons. 
At an early hour, about 5.30 I think, the three brothers and 
I dined together. I remember at these dinners great argu- 
ments chiefly between Leonard and myself, in spite of the 
big difference in our ages. My leanings then were very 
much towards Toryism and High Church. The other 
brothers watched and listened with amusement, and one 
of them, who at 9.30 walked back with me to Bedford 
College, has told me how unconsciously I had acquired 
some of the expressions and gestures of my brother Leonard 
and produced them when arguing with him. He had great 
toleration of religious opinions, but in small matters of life 
I should say in my early girlhood and womanhood he was 
very critical. 

" In those days at Bedford College from fifteen to nine- 
teen my brother introduced me to many of his friends who 
were very kind to the shy girl and with whom friendship 


ripened and has continued all through my life. For my 
seventeenth birthday treat he took me to a Saturday 
Popular Concert at St. James's HaU to listen to the delightful 
string quartette led by Joachim. Two of his friends Mr. 
William Stebbing and Mr. T. Bodley were with us and came 
back to my birthday dinner at Powis Place. The constant 
and intimate friendship between Mr. Stebbing and my 
brother is well known, and I am glad to have two special 
memories connected with it — my seventeenth birthday 
party and a httle tea party in March last half a century 
later, when Mr. and Mrs. Stebbing, my brother and a few 
other old friends met at my house. 

" Not only was Sunday spent with the brothers but not 
infrequently other afternoons, when sometimes we went 
for country walks in Eppinp Forest, Hampstead or Highgate, 
or visited Hampton Court or Kew. So many first doings 
are associated with these years. On my first day in London 
I was taken to Christie's, the National Gallery, the Academy ; 
other picture exhibitions, * Private Views ' were all visited 
with Leonard. One surprising first experience I remember 
was when I was eighteen, and he told me he was going to 
give a dinner party and I was to be hostess. This was a 
much more formal affair than the httle party on my seven- 
teenth birthday, and I felt some dread about it ; but Mr. 
Scott, afterwards Sir John, took me into dinner and was 
very kind and sympathetic, and my shyness soon went. 
The intercourse which began on that day went on increasing 
in friendship and intimacy until his death in 1904. 

" In my studies at the College Leonard naturally took 
great interest. He was particularly convinced that a 
knowledge of mathematics was very essential for women. I 
remember, when at one time I wanted to give up mathe- 
matics, he wrote a long letter to me stating how desirable it 
was to go on with them to develop my reasoning faculties. 
The same motive I think made him some years later ask me 
to read Lucretius with him in a leisurely month which he, 
two other members of the family and I spent together in 
Holland. For several years after leaving Bedford College 
in 1869 there was much intercourse with him, — long visits 


to London, continental travel, a visit with him to Canada, 
and every year Christmas at Penzance. In the first two 
winters after leaving Bedford College I read at Penzance 
with Dr. Willan, his old tutor, and had from him many 
reminiscences of his much loved pupil Leonard. These 
readings seemed to hnk me with Leonard's early days, and 
I remember in our country walks when he came at Christmas 
we used to discuss Horace and other authors we had both 
enjoyed with Dr. Willan." 

The recollections of his oldest surviving friend, Mr. 
WilUam Stebbing, throw further Hght on the personaUty 
and pursuits of the briefless barrister. 

" My friendship with Leonard Courtney lasted from 
rather before we both were called to the Bar, he in June, 
and I in November, 1858. Never once was it broken. 
Friends of both will recognise that, as each hked his own 
way, this is a remarkable fact. It began from the accident 
of a vacant seat in a mess of four in Lincoln's Inn Hall. 
There, as in a multitude of similar cases, it might have 
ended. He from Cambridge had many University acquaint- 
ances. I had some from Oxford. As it happened a week 
or two later I paid a few days' visit to a future brother-in- 
law, Robert Batty, hke Courtney a Second Wrangler, Tutor 
of Emanuel. Here at dinner I met Courtney from John's, 
of which he was a Fellow. The chance brought us a little 
closer. Never have I had much readiness in sociability ; 
he was better gifted. He was deep in the coimcils of the 
University reformers, who, especially from the Inns of 
Court, bombarded the citadels of academical abuses. When 
such innovators were festively inclined, and founded in 
a court off Pall Mall a weekly Club, the Century, I had never 
heard of it till he took me to a meeting. Through his choice 
suddenly, by what degrees I know not, we were friends. 
I became even friend of his friends, such as John Rigby, 
though with somewhat less of warmth. His was not a 
nature to measure intimacy. My Chambers for business, 
where also I Hved, were successively in Chancery Lane and 
Lincoln's Inn. His were on the staircase of Lincoln's Inn 


Chapel. He used them for business only, sharing occupa- 
tion with F. G. A. Williams, who lives in the affection of the 
few who survive. As a dwelling he had hired lodgings in 
Powis Place, Bloomsbury, for himself and two brothers. 
The position was recommended by its neighbourhood to 
Bedford College, where a young sister was a student. Tea 
in Powis Place and whist were the common termination 
of long Saturday suburban walks and talk. Work fully 
engrossed our days, and a majority of evenings. At first 
for him as well as for me it was on the hues our profession 
marked out. Nature had implanted in him a love of the 
certainty of mathematical conclusions following from the 
premisses. He had turned the inclination to ample account 
at Cambridge. Somehow Real Property Law, with its 
forms and precedents, has an affinity to mathematics. 
Having no ambition for an academical career, he chose the 
legal profession almost as of course. In Christie's famous 
Chambers he made himself an excellent conveyancer. Had 
solicitors found him out in time, he might have pioneered 
through briefs his path into politics, ending with the Bench. 
"As it was, one bulky and dusty set of papers, with a 
Leader's and his own names upon it, for years reminded 
visitors to the Chambers of his vocation. He never lost 
his legal learning, though I doubt if he ever held a second 
brief. When a brave publisher started the New Reports 
with future Lord Chancellors, Attorneys General, Puisne 
Judges, and, I think, a Speaker, on the staff, his name 
was there too. I have the vanity to add mine. But he 
had ceased to reckon on law professionally. Neglect did 
not vex him. He never complained. Like myself he eked 
out a College Fellowship by literature and examining. We s/ 

were colleagues on such expeditions to Grantham and York. 
At the former a boy, Colhngwood, won a chief prize, and 
had to recite a poem. Courtney, in the good spirits of a 
hohday from London, composed verses for him in which, 
though kindred was modestly disclaimed, the deeds of 
Nelson's colleague were recalled." 

In addition to William Stebbing, Courtney saw a great 



deal at this time of an old and a new friend. The life-long 
comradeship with Roby, Senior Classic in 185 1 and a Fellow 
of St. John's, began after taking his degree in 1855. Brief 
hohdays were often spent together, and many were the 
visits to Dulwich College where Roby was a Master from 
1861 to 1865. The friendship with Westlake began a httle 
later, when both men were yomig students of law in London. 
" I do not remember the commencement of our acquaint- 
ance," wrote Lord Courtney in his chapter contributed to 
the Memories of John Westlake. " I must have come to 
know him soon after I took up residence in London, and in 
the early sixties acquaintance ripened into intimacy and 
friendship. A circumstance which doubtless helped their 
development was the fact that Westlake, like myself, was 
a zealous Comishman. During his earher married Hfe I 
was a frequent guest at the very attractive gatherings in 
his hospitable house in Oxford Square." A second tie was 
the fact that Mrs. Westlake was the daughter of Thomas 
Hare, to whom Courtney already looked up as one of his 
poHtical masters. " Westlake's acceptance of the principles 
of the great work of his father-in-law was strengthened if 
not originated by Mill ; and it was in relation to Propor- 
tional Representation that my own poUtical intimacy with 
him first deepened." Most of Courtney's early friendships 
were made for life ; and though his name was still unknown 
to the public his friends were well aware of his exceptional 
powers, and shared his confidence that in the fulness of 
time he would come to his own. 

While he was still at college Richard Oliver had written 
from Melbourne urging him to keep his eyes open for a 
Melbourne professorship ; but a colonial career had no 
attractions for him, and when a pecuniarily advantageous 
offer was made in 1861 he declined it without much hesita- 

From his Father 

April 2, 1861. — Mr. Bolitho asked me yesterday if I thought 
you would undertake the management of a bank at Sydney, 
salary about ;£iooo. Whether desirable or not I leave you to 


From his Father 

April 6. — I had your letter this morning. I have no wish 
that you should go abroad, and have told Mr. BoUtho you had 
decUned the offer. Regarding your own affairs I have no doubt 
you will have much uphill work and wiU suffer many disappoint- 
ments, but in the end will succeed if you take a stand upon 
industry and honour. Nothing is more conducive to our well- 
being than a striving against adverse or rather unfavourable 
circumstances. A too easy life is ruination. 

From R. E. Hooppell 

April 10, 1861. — It is, I can well imagine, a source of per- 
plexity that the Sydney offer should be made just now and 
not a few years later. You have not given the legal profession 
a fair trial. I can offer no advice. I should see with great 
sorrow your departure, not on personal grounds but from a 
feehng that our country had lost one who has the ability and, 
I beUeve, the earnest will to benefit her largely, if only a channel 
CO ul be opened up through which his ability and will might 
operate. At the same time I have ever thought it one of the 
greatest and most responsible positions a man can occupy to 
be among the genuine builders of a new country. 

A thousand a year must have seemed affluence, and 
may well have appealed for a fleeting moment to the young 
barrister, who after three years in London had realised that 
success at the Bar was probably beyond his reach. Though 
a bachelor he was also head of a household, with a keen 
sense of responsibility for the welfare of its inmates. His 
heart was never in the law ; for he possessed the qualities 
that go to the making of a judge rather than a barrister.^ 
But other fields were open to him ; and he had already 
dedicated himself to the task in which he was to find the 
occupation and the happiness of his life, — the formation of 
pubHc opinion. 

1 His name remained in the Law List ; but on his election to ParUa- 
ment he declined in debate the addition to " honourable " of " learned." 



Courtney's main interest during his early years in London 
was in economic and financial questions, to which his 
mathematical studies afforded a valuable apprenticeship. 
In i860 appeared the first of his innumerable contributions 
to the discussion of pubhc questions, " Direct Taxation ; 
an Inquiry. By Leonard H, Courtney, M.A., Fellow of St. 
John's College, Cambridge, and of Lincoln's Inn, Barrister- 
at-Law. Dedicated to the Chancellor of the Exchequer." 
The purpose of the pamphlet was explained in the brief 
Preface. " As the House of Commons has during the 
present session committed itself (as far as a ParHament 
may) to increasing and making permanent the portion of 
the Revenue raised by direct taxation, the inquiries as to 
the principle upon which a direct tax should be assessed 
and the method available to carry the principle into practice 
seem fit for a renewed discussion ; and the only excuse for 
one who enters on them is that he should really have some- 
thing to say. So many, however, and so diverse have been 
the answers already given by men the most eminent, that 
a writer may well be diffident of the results at which he 
has arrived, and if in the few following pages I ever appear 
to have forgotten this, I pray the courteous reader to 
believe that it was not imtil after much hesitation and 
many reviewals that I have hazarded the offence of sending 
forth an erroneous or even unnecessary speculation." 

With the Ught-hearted courage of youth the young 
economist attacked Mill and Babbage, and maintained that 
capitaUsation is the only just and practicable method of 



assessment for direct taxation. The pamphlet dealt with 
highly technical matters and is by no means easy reading, 
and it is hardly surprising that the work of an unknown 
barrister attracted but little attention. The author was 
none the less convinced of the importance of his labours, 
and he distributed numerous copies among his friends. 

From R. E. Hooppell 

February 20, 1861. — I am very desirous of knowing how 
your pamphlet on Direct Taxation has fared. I have read it 
with great interest ; but my belief is it is too abstruse — too 
abstrusely treated — for it to win much favour. Scarcely one 
reviewer would read it patiently enough and think it over deeply 
enough to do it even slender justice. And as for the public 
I do not suppose they would buy a dozen. Your plan should 
be — or shoidd have been — to give them away judiciously, to 
send copies to all the great names in political economics and 
finance, to all the Ex-Chancellors and expectant Chancellors of 
the Exchequer and all the M.P.'s who speak on such questions. 
Mr. Hubbard, I see in yesterday's Times, has carried his motion 
for a Select Committee on the Inequalities of the Income Tax. 
To him and to every member of the Committee you ought to 
send a copy, and, if possible, to get yourself examined by it. 

Many months later came an encouraging letter from the 
oldest of his friends in far-off Melbourne. 

From Richard Oliver 

March 1862. — I got your pamphlet and entirely agree with 
your plan. I hope you did not feel much disappointed at not 
getting it extensively read. 

The lack of public interest in his scheme in no way 
diminished his confidence in his own conclusions ; and he 
fearlessly proceeded to break a lance with the greatest of 
hving economists in a letter of immense length. 


To J. S. Mill 

Sept. 17, 1861. — I should be very glad if I could secure 
your attention to a few remarks which I send you on the subject 
of the Income and Property Tax. I have been reading in the 
last few days your evidence before Mr. Hubbard's Committee 
and I feel under the necessity of writing you upon it. Your 
opinion carries in truth so much weight with it, and I must 
frankly add it appears to me to be on this subject so insecure, 
that it is of great importance to examine it a Uttle more closely. 
. . . These are only hints, but they may perhaps serve to induce 
you to reconsider the abstract question of the justice of capitalisa- 
tion as the basis of a direct tax ; they involve a consideration 
which I confess does not appear to me to have received proper 
attention. I have not touched on the question of practica- 
bility ; but I may say the difficulty of this question is overrated. 
Could I know that I had shaken your opinion as to the justice 
of the capitalisation theory I would gladly explain to you how 
I believe it can be carried out. But even though it were utterly 
impracticable, it is surely most important to determine the true 
foundation of direct taxation. I find on reading over these 
remarks that they are characterised by a plainness and direct- 
ness which I must ask you to pardon. I can assure you they 
are conceived in a feeling of great respect ; nor should I venture 
to send them to you save for my trust in the singular candour 
your works exhibit. 

Mill's response was a courteous but uncompromising 
rejection of the arguments of his youthful critic ; and the 
controversy was terminated but not settled by a second 
letter from the author of Direct Taxation. 

To J. S. Mill 

Sept. 20, 186 1. — I am very much obliged to you for your 
answer to my remarks. I know you must be much troubled 
with idle communications, nor should I have written to yoii 
but that I thought I was presenting to your notice some argu- 
ments with respect to which I could discover no trace that 
they had ever been considered by you. But though I feel 
grateful to you for writing to me, I must own that the perusal 
of your letter much saddened me, and that because, from the 
irrelevancy of your confutation, it appeared that I had failed 


to make myself understood. You say that the actuaries argue 
that income of equal capitalised value should pay equal amounts 
to the tax. It is very possible that you will find this language 
used by some of them ; but it is not mine and indeed it is quite 
at variance with my view of the subject, I am bold therefore 
to beg of you once more to read my former letter. I do not 
ask you to write me again if on a second perusal you are satisfied 
that you had entirely mastered my position at the first. In 
that case I would beg of you to pardon my urgency. 

Though the two men agreed to differ on the Income 
Tax their views on most questions of politics and economics 
were very similar ; and before long Courtney was to become 
the friend as well as the disciple of the leading English 
thinker of his generation. 

In the summer of 1861 the Whately Professorship of 
Political Economy in Dublin, tenable for five years and 
worth ;^ioo a year, fell vacant, and Courtney journeyed to 
the Irish capital for the examination which candidates were 
compelled to undergo. The prize fell to another ; but he 
convinced the most eminent of the examiners that he was 
the best qualified for the post. The incident is described 
in a letter written by Professor Caimes in 1863 in support 
of an application for a post of greater importance. 

From Professor Caimes to Professor Pryme 

March 29, 1863. — My acquaintance with Mr. Courtney 
occurred in this way. Some two years since, on the Professor- 
ship in Dublin University (the appointment to which takes 
place by competitive examination) becoming vacant, he pre- 
sented himself as a candidate and I happened to be one of the 
examiners. This gave me an unusual opportunity of forming 
a judgment as to his ability and acquirements in economic 
science, and the result of the examination was to leave on my 
mind the conviction that both were of a very high order. I 
accordingly — notwithstanding that he was surpassed by another 
. candidate on the numerical total of answering — urged his appoint- 
ment on the Board of Trinity College in the strongest terms I 
could command. He was not appointed, the other examiners 
having concurred in recommending the candidate who was on 
my Ust also first in the numerical total. In recommending 


his appointment as I did I may take credit to myself for some 
candour, his views on several questions in Pohtical Economy, 
as well of principle as of practical application, being at 
variance with my own. Nevertheless, so impressed was I with 
the originaHty of his mind, his searching power of analysis, 
and the importance of bringing minds of this class into direct 
contact with the economic problems of the day, that I did not 
hesitate to urge his election. The same conviction, strengthened 
by the perusal of some essays on economic subjects from his pen 
which I have since seen, makes me anxious that his quaHfications 
should be made known. 

The disappointment was not very severe ; for the prize 
was small and the expectation of success not very high. 
An old friend who had left Penzance to seek his fortune in 
Canada wrote from Prince Edward Island urging him to 
follow his example. 

From Alfred Purchase 

September 1861. — I do not feel sorry you did not get the 
Professorship in Dublin ; it does not seem worth while to be 
tied there for five years at £100. If you would like to get on 
rapidly come to the provinces. The ladder, of course, is not so 
high, but it is much easier to get up without the wear and tear 
of rubbing against others. 

Hooppell, sometimes a little inclined to play the part 
of the candid friend, told him bluntly that his opinions 
stood in the way of success. 

From R. E. Hooppell 

February 28, 1862. — I read Professor Caimes's letter with 
the greatest interest and pleasure. The only thing that vexed 
me in it was that the other three examiners did not concur in 
his recommendation. Being Irishmen I hardly expected that 
they would. Moreover you have peculiar views on various 
poHtical and economical questions, views, I must say, I do not 
always consider correct. 

The rebuff at Dublin was not without its compensations ; 
for it brought Courtney one of the most valued and fruitful 
friendships of his life. If the primacy axnong British 


economists was by universal agreement accorded to Mill, 
no one in the 'sixties possessed a better claim to the second 
place than Caimes. In such a field it is the testimony of 
experts that counts ; and there were few men in the 
academic world of the third quarter of the century in regard 
to whom the verdict of scholars was so nearly unanimous. 
Winning the Whately Professorship of Political Economy 
at Dublin in 1856, he quickly attracted attention by the 
publication in 1857 of his brilliant lectures on The Char- 
acter and Logical Method of Political Economy. As the 
Dubhn Chair was only tenable for five years he exchanged 
it for that of Queen's College, Galway, in 1859. His work 
on The Slave Power, based on a course of lectures and 
pubUshed in 1862 by Mill's advice, was the most powerful 
defence of the cause of the Northern States produced on 
this side of the Atlantic. His methods, not less than his 
opinions, were of precisely the character which appealed 
most forcibly to a man trained like Courtney in mathe- 
matical principles. " The characteristic of his mind," 
wrote Bagehot after his death, " was a tenacious grasp 
of abstract principle. There is an Euclidian precision 
about his writings. Reading his works is like living on 
high ground ; the ' thin air of abstract truth ' which 
they give you braces the mind just as fine material air 
does the body." ^ 

The distinguished Irish economist testified to the faith 
that was in him when his young friend stood for the chair 
of Political Economy at Cambridge in 1863. The subject 
had received academic recognition \>y the appointment of 
an ill-paid professor in 1828 ; but Pryme was not an expert, 
and when the old man resigned in 1863 the salary was raised 
to £300 a year, and responsible duties attached to it. When 
the approaching vacancy was announced Courtney asked 
Caimes for his support, unless he proposed to stand himself , 
and Cairnes threw himself into the contest with whole- 
hearted resolution. 

* Biographical Studies. 


From Professor Cairnes 

March 15. — I have not seen the advertisement, nor have I 
any idea of presenting myself as a candidate, and I have great 
satisfaction in giving you the testimonial you wish for. If it 
is wanting in strength or point permit me to assure you that 
this is owing entirely to my deficiency in power of expression 
and not at all to any difl&culty about giving you the highest 
testimonial I could frame. 

Courtney's next letter informed his Irish friend and 
champion that there was so little hope of success, since 
other and better known candidates had appeared, that he 
hardly cared to compete ; but Cairnes urged him to go 
forward and was fertile in promises and encouragement. 

From Professor Cairnes 

March 19. — If you have an essay on an economic subject 
which you would have no objection to submit to Mill and would 
allow me to be the medium of conveying it, I think I might 
interest him in your behalf in such a way as to draw from him 
an expression of opinion that might be serviceable. Your 
remark on Fawcett's pretensions entirely coincides with the 
opinion I had formed of him ; though perhaps I should have 
gone somewhat further in an unfavourable sense. His specula- 
tions on gold I thought exceedingly flimsy. Macleod I should 
be sorry to see appointed ; but he struck me as a man of more 
power than his rival. 

MiU was committed to Fawcett ; but the postponement 
of the election tiU the late autumn appeared to Cairnes 
favourable to the chances of his candidate. An unsuccessful 
application for an examinership in pohtical economy at 
London University called forth his ready sympathy. 

From Professor Cairnes 

May 3. — I am really exceedingly disappointed at this result, 
not that it is of much importance in itself but as a 'point d'appui 
with a view to the Professorship. 


A fortnight later he is advocating an effort on the part 
of the candidate himself. 

From Professor Cairnes 

May 18. — On the whole I am inclined to take a much more 
hopeful view of your chance from all you teU me, and I trust 
this is also your disposition. You spoke some time ago of 
writing something on which you might obtain the opinion of 
competent judges. Might it not be well to do this at as early 
a point of time as possible so as to secure such of the constituency 
as are Uke to be influenced by considerations of this kind (I 
suppose a small fraction) before they have committed themselves 
to a side ? 

Meanwhile the other candidates were also bestirring 
themselves, and canvassing proceeded merrilj'' throughout 
the summer. 

From Professor Cairnes 

May 23. — I have received a letter from Fawcett, asking me 
for a testimonial. I of course declined, excusing myself on the 
ground that I had already expressed an opinion in your favour, 
I am not a little astonished that he should have thought it worth 
while to apply to me. 

May 26. — I confess I am surprised at Mill's testimonial to 
Fawcett. I can understand his testifying to his " sound know- 
ledge," also to the value of some of his illustrations, but how he 
could credit him with " clear and precise exposition " passes 
my comprehension. I do not, any more than you, attach much 
importance to testimonials ; stiU it would be as well if you get 
some name to go near balancing Mill's. Have any of your 
writings come under Lord Overstone's notice ? You are most 
welcome to make any use you please of my letter of August 2, 
186 1. In the event, however, of your using it as a testimonial, 
as I have referred in it to " important points " on which your 
views differ from mine, it is perhaps right that I should add 
that, with one exception, these are points with reference to which, 
while differing from me in common with the English school of 
Political Economy, you are at one with Bastiat, Say and some 
of the most eminent economists of France. The one exception 
is the vexed question of the Bank Act of 1844, to the poUcy of 
which you subscribe while I dissent from it. I should also add 


that having, since the date of my letter, read several essays from 
your pen on economic subjects, I have had my original opinion 
of your general abiUty as well as of special aptitude for economic 
speculation not merely confirmed but greatly strengthened, 
and that I shall regard your appointment to a Chair of Political 
Economy as a real gain to the science. 

The election was fixed for November 27, and four candi- 
dates presented themselves.^ The electors, who were chiefly 
resident Masters of Arts, v/ere expected to prefer a resident. 
The favourite was Fawcett, a Fellow of Trinity Hall, and a 
popular figure in the University and beyond. His Manual 
of Political Economy, opportunely pubhshed at the begin- 
ning of the year, had found a ready welcome in the wide 
circles which desired to understand Mill's system without 
the effort of reading his book ; and he produced an army 
of testimonials with which none of his rivals could compete. 
Mayor, the other resident candidate, a Fellow and Tutor 
of St. John's, had speciaUsed in moral science ; but he was 
loyally supported by the Master and most of the Fellows 
of his College The third candidate, Macleod, was an 
expert ; but his views aroused contemptuous and even 
angry antagonism. Courtney's abilities were known to his 
friends but unknown to the world, and his chances were 
generally considered as slender as those of Macleod. Thus 
the contest lay between Fawcett and Mayor ; and by a 
curious coincidence Courtney's candidature proved an 
essential element in the success of the man who was one 
day to become his most intimate friend and associate. The 
situation is explamed by Leslie Stephen, one of the most 
ardent of Fawcett's supporters. " One consideration turned 
out to be decisive. Members of St. John's College, unless 
they were beUed, had a private decalogue, including the 
commandment. Thou shalt not vote against a Johnian, 
Fawcett had some very warm friends in St. John's, who 
sincerely thought him the best man, but who would not 
allow that opinion to divert them from the plain path of 
duty. Courtney, however, was a Johnian as well as Mayor ; 

^ The story is told at length in LesUe Stephen's Life of Fawcett, 
chap. iii. 


and though his chances were known to be infinitesimal, they 
could vote for hini without inconsistency. Such votes 
would be taken from Mayor, though not transferred to 
Fawcett. Fawcett's chance thus came to depend on Court- 
ney's to stand, and thus to divide the soHd 
Johnian phalanx. Courtney fortunately held that he was 
pledged to his supporters to go to the poll, and they held 
him to his pledge." The result was in accordance with 
expectation. Fawcett, 90 ; Mayor, 80 ; Courtney, 19 ; 
Macleod, 14. As Courtney had cherished no illusions, he 
was perhaps less disappointed than his principal champion.^ 

From Professor Cairnes 

November 30. — I am heartily sorry at the result, as much 
on pubUc as on personal grounds. Fawcett will, I daresay, 
fill the Chair respectably, but I have no expectation that the 
science will gain in his keeping, which I believe it would have 
done in yours. I earnestly hope you may before long find a 
position, if not in Cambridge in some other University, suited 
to your pretensions. 

Courtney's career since he settled in London at the end 
of 1857 had been a series of disappointments. There were 
no prospects at the Bar, and Sir Edward Clarke has ex- 
pressed the opinion that he was too ligid for success in that 
school of compromise and accommodation. His efforts to 
return to academic life had been fruitless. His pamphlet 
on Direct Taxation had attracted no attention. In one 
direction alone, that of joumaUsm, could he point to any 
advance. Among weekly papers the Saturday Review, 
started on a new course by Douglas Cook in 1855, had won 
the first place in authority and popular favour ; for no 
other journal could boast of an array of contributors such 
as Abraham Hayward and Lord Robert Cecil, Henry Maine 
and Fitzjames Stephen, John Morley and Vernon Harcourt. 
Next to the Saturday stood the Spectator, which, on the 

^ " Though I am vain enough to think I had perhaps the best grip of 
economic principles, I should not have been a good Professor and the 
fittest man was chosen," wrote Courtney to Roby in 191 1, after reading 
the life of Alexander Macmillan. 


death of its owner and editor, Rintoul, in 1858, had passed 
into the hands of Meredith Townsend, who was speedily 
joined by Richard Holt Hutton. The Examiner, founded 
by Leigh Hunt and edited for many years with rare abihty 
by Albany Fonblanque, failed to maintain its position 
under John Forster, but still retained a certain influence. 
To seciure the entree into any of these organs was no easy 
task for an unknown writer, and Courtney's debut was 
made in a far less exalted quarter. In i860 the London 
Review, a threepenny weekly, was founded by Charles 
Mackay, a writer of weU-known songs and for some years 
editor of the Illustrated London News. His ambition was 
to rival the Saturday by avoiding its censorious tone ; and 
the opening number, published on July 7, defined " Our 
Principles and PoUtics." "To be honest in politics and 
generous and appreciative in criticism shall be the rule. 
It win not always be sitting in judgment, but will originate 
as well as criticise and wiU afford to young and rising 
genius an arena in which its first distinctions may be 
achieved. The unknown writer shall be as cordially 
received as a man who has made himself famous, provided 
that he has something good to say and knows how to 
say it." 

The birth of the journal was celebrated at a sumptuous 
dinner at the Reform Club, the menu of which was re 
produced many years later with naive satisfaction in the 
host's autobiography. The high spirits of the company 
were somewhat damped by Monckton Milnes, who, in 
proposing the health of the host and prosperity to the new 
venture, expressed his doubts whether it could succeed 
unless more wit and fun were infused into it. Mackay 
tartly replied that it was not intended to compete with 
Punch, and that the one dull article that had so far appeared 
was from the pen of his candid critic. Despite its somewhat 
ponderous qualities the Review grew steadily in pubhc 
favour, but too slowly for the partners who had found the 
money. " After six months of worry and discomfort," 
wrote Mackay long after in the bitterness of his heart, " I 
found I had made a mistake, and resigned my editorial 


sceptre to an unliterary autocrat who ruled by right of his 
banking account, and was in a position to purchase anony- 
mous opinion at the small market prices then current 
cimong the tyros of the press." ^ Mackay's departure made 
little difference in the character of the Review, which 
continued to supply articles of average merit. Lacking the 
brilliant audacity of the Saturday, it failed to seciure a lead- 
ing place in the world of journalism, and its career came to 
an end in 1869 ; but it provided a welcome training-ground 
for a good many young writers who had stiU to make their 

During 1862 and 1863 Courtney frequently contributed 
articles and reviews, chiefly relating to the literature and 
problems of pohtical economy. Among the tasks which 
gave their author the greatest pleasure was a long notice 
of Caimes's masterly treatise on The Slave Power, in which 
he not only paid a generous tribute to his Irish friend, but 
gave expression to his ardent championship of the cause of 
the North. The common ignorance of America before the 
war, he begins, was astonishing, and even now the public 
was only beginning to wake up. Mill had explained the 
importance of the conflict^ " and the present work, which 
may be said to appear under Mr. MiU's auspices, may serve 
to bring over those who remained uncertain." The signifi- 
cance of the voliune lay in the fact that it provided the key 
to the great drama that was being unfolded beyond the 
Atlantic, which both in intrinsic importance and in mere 
size surpassed any event since the French Revolution. 
Earl RusseU had declared that the North was fighting for 
empire, the South for independence ; but this was to miss 
the real cause of the struggle. It was the merit of Caimes 
to trace the conflict to its root in the essential opposition 
between the economic character of a Slave State and a 
Free State. The Southerners were cut for much more than 
independence. " They wish to acquire new lands to be 
worked by their slaves, and by the creation of Slave States 
to preserve their power in the Senate. It seems impos- 
sible to regret the present war. Deplorable as are its 

^ Charles Mackay, Through the Long Day, ii. 201-12. 


consequences it has already averted greater evils. In 
the interest of ci\dIisation Englishmen cannot but wish 
the humbling of the Southern power, the character and 
design of which Professor Caimes has so ably revealed to 

From Professor Caimes 

June 20, 1862. — Thanks for your very friendly and flattering 
notice of my book in the London Review. You have put in a 
very forcible way some of the principal points of my argument ; 
and your notice will prove very useful. The present is the 
first number I have seen. I had understood that it was sup- 
ported by seceders from the Saturday Review. If it should 
succeed in taking its place in public estimation I, for one, should 
exceedingly rejoice, the influence of the latter organ having 
been for some time past purely mischievous. The standard of 
writing in the number you sent me strikes me as very high. 

From this time forward the Galway Professor kept his 
eye on the London Review, and frequently wrote to express 
his admiration or dishke of its contents. 

From Professor Caimes 

March 15, 1863. — I see the London Review pretty frequently, 
and had noticed the discordant elements to which you refer. 
In the number of yesterday I see there is an article on America 
of a strongly Southern cast — doubtless by Mr. Greg. Was it 
not your hand which was at work some months ago in some 
articles on rent ? 

April 7, 1863. — It was surely you who were at work on 
Macleod in the London Review of Saturday. I have not read 
anything for a long time in the way of criticism that has so 
thoroughly satisfied me. I have also read with great interest, 
and in the main concurrence, your articles on £conomistes 
Modemes. I do think you greatly underrate Mill and overrate 
Bastiat as much. Your review, however, has had the effect 
of sending me to his works. 

Though Courtney speciaHsed rather in finance and 
political economy than in foreign poHtics, the tremendous 


drama in America which opened in 1861 claimed his atten- 
tion from the first. He never doubted for a moment that 
the cause of the North was the cause of righteousness, and 
he did his best to counterwork the Southern sympathies 
openly and often truculently expressed by the governing 
classes in England. His debut as a political adviser to his 
fellow-countrymen revealed him in the role which he con- 
tinued to play with increasing authority for nearly sixty 
years. The seizure of the Southern envoys on board the 
Trent threw Great Britain into a paroxysm of indignation, 
and, but for the intervention of the Queen and the Prince 
Consort, aided by the fact that London and Washington 
were unconnected by telegraph, would probably have 
hurled two countries into war. The young barrister's 
closely reasoned letter to the Daily News was the first of 
many appeals to his fellow-countrymen to keep their heads 
in a grave crisis. 

The American Difficulty 

To the Editor of the Daily News. 

SiR-*-Readers of the daily papers must confess that the public 
indignation is spent on a wrong issue. Speakers at the meetings 
throughout the country declaim, amidst vehement cheering, 
against the insult offered to our flag by searching a vessel that 
bears it, against the violation of the protection that flag warrants, 
by taking away persons from its shelter. Both speakers and 
cheerers would think the insult deepened and the violation 
more outrageous had Commodore Wilkes insisted on conducting 
the Trent and aU on board into Boston Harbour. Yet it is 
the fact that had Commodore Wilkes done this we should have 
had no ground of complaint. It is indeed known that the 
remonstrance of our government is directed against the manner 
in which the seizure has been effected ; but this is regarded by 
the public as a lawyer-like subtlety in taking one, and that a 
minor one, out of many grounds of complaint, because it is 
clear and definite, instead of being as it is, the taking of the one 
single and sole ground on which we can raise an objection. I 
cannot but think that if the true nature of the difference between 
us and the Federal government were known, the public excite- 
ment would very much abate, and what I think we must all 
desire, a peaceable solution of the difficulty, would be rendered 



possible. I hope therefore you will find it convenient to insert 
a short argument to show that Commodore Wilkes would have 
been justified by international law in taking possession of the 
Trent and conducting her to a prize court of the Federal States. 

(A long technical discussion follows.) 

In any case it is our duty, quietly but determinedly, to wait 
till we learn whether the prize courts of the United States can 
enter upon and decide the question of the legality of the capture, 
and if they can we must await their decision. Until that is 
pronounced the Northern States are at Hberty to assume the 
best possible case in their favour. It may appear that Messrs. 
Mason and Slidell were furnished with money or with letters of 
credit on speculative Liverpool merchants who have purchased 
the cotton locked up in the South, and that they also bore in- 
structions to purchase warHke stores or even ships of war (there 
are American sailors enough in our ports) with which to harass 
the navy, mercantile or otherwise, of the North, My letter has 
grown to a formidable size, but I hope the importance of the 
subject will serve as an excuse. — I am, etc. L. H. C. 

Lincoln's Inn, 
December ii, 1861. 

In reprinting his weighty and temperate protest half a 
century later, ^ its author called attention to a letter from 
Palmerston to Delane confirming its argument. " Much to 
my regret," wrote the Prime Minister after a Cabinet 
Committee attended by the Law Officers, " it appeared 
that according to the principles of international law, laid 
down in our Courts by Lord Stowell and practised and 
enforced by us, a belligerent has a right to stop and search 
any neutral, not being a ship of war, and being found on 
the high seas, and being suspected of carrying the enemies' 
despatches, and that consequently this American cruiser 
might by our own principles of international law stop the 
West Indian packet, search her, and if the Southern men 
and their despatches and credentials were found on board, 
either take them out or seize the packet and take her back 
to New York for trial." ^ Though the law thus clearly set 
forth in November was strictly observed a week or two 

^ As an Appendix to Peace or War, 1910. 
* Dasent, Life of Delane, ii. 36. 


later in the stoppage of the Trent, Palmerston denounced 
the act in violent terms and was rapturously applauded by 
the Times and most of the other organs of public opinion. 

At the same time that his work for the London Review 
was unconsciously fitting him for Printing House Square, 
Courtney was also preparing himself for the claims of public 
life. He had been much too busy at Cambridge to spare 
time for the Union debates, and his tastes in those years 
were rather literary and artistic than political ; but on 
settling in London his interest in affairs had developed 
rapidly. On January 30, 1861, he was elected a member of 
the newly formed Hardwicke Society, a weekly debating 
circle which has supplied a training to generations of clever 
young lawyers.^ On the same day Coleridge, afterwards 
Lord Chief Justice, Rigby, afterwards Lord Justice, and 
Gully, afterwards Speaker, were enrolled. He attended 
his first meeting in February, when a motion for the reduc- 
tion of naval and military expenditure was lost. His 
maiden speech was delivered on March 13, when he un- 
successfully opposed the motion, " That no attempt should 
be made to readjust the income-tax with the view of lighten- 
ing its pressure on terminable and precarious incomes." 
It was the subject which he had made his own in his 
pamphlet on Direct Taxation, and among the visitors was 
Hubbard, who had recently carried his motion for a Select 
Committee on the inequalities of the income-tax. The 
young orator was not altogether satisfied with his maiden 

From his Father 

March 23, 1861. — I trust your next attempt at the Hardwicke 
will be more satisfactory than the first movement. Like every- 
thing else I believe there must be a course of training for public 
speaking, however collected you may be. 

A week or two later he opposed compulsory elementary 
education, and on May 22 he for the first time opened a 

^ I am indebted for the following details to the kindness oi Mr. William 
Latey, who is engaged on a history of the Hardwicke Society. 


debate, condemning the remissions of taxation in the 
current Budget as excessive in amount and ill selected. In 
February 1862 he proposed the emancipation of the self- 
governing colonies, and in November he carried a motion 
against the recognition of the South in the American civil 
war. He was now one of the most frequent contributors 
to debate, both on legal and political topics. He defended 
the cession of the Ionian Isles to Greece, condemned the 
Government's loan of officers to China, opposed a motion 
by Frederic Harrison urging the Western Powers to prevent 
Russian aggression against Poland, and argued against the 
neglect of Parhamentary Reform. On joining the staff of 
the Times in 1864 he virtually ceased to attend ; but he was 
present at the annual dinner in 1865. His last appearance 
was in May 1866, when he introduced, but failed to carry 
a motion that the Government Reform scheme was 

" It was the best debating society I have ever known," 
writes Sir Edward Clarke in his Autobiography.^ " It 
used to meet in a back room at Dick's Coffee House, and 
the attendance was then only from fifteen to twenty. But 
among the regular attendants and frequent speakers were 
some notable men. Leonard Courtney, Frederic Harrison, 
Montague Cookson, and Vernon and Godfrey Lushington 
were very often there, and Giffard and HerscheU and Charles 
RusseU came occasionally. I was the Honorary Secretary 
1865-68 and then President for three years ; and I have 
never ceased to try to persuade students and young bar- 
risters not to neglect the advantages which such a society 
offers." Sir Edward recoUects Courtney as a " very magis- 
terial " speaker, slow in deUvery and without pretensions 
to briUiance, but extremely weU informed and powerful in 

* Story of My Life, p. 61. 
* Convergation with the author, September 191 8. 



In the course of a letter written in September 1863 Courtney 
casually records that " Mr. G. W. Dasent of the Times " had 
left a card at his chambers while he was away. He 
had already offered a number of reviews, all of which had 
been returned ; but his pertinacity was ultimately rewarded. 
On January 26, 1864, a long and discriminating review of 
The Water-Babies appeared, for which in due course he 
received a cheque for ten guineas.^ He foretold that the 
story would outlive many generations of ordinary gift- 
books, and that Kingsley's babies would remain young to 
gambol with children yet unborn ; but he was well aware 
of the author's faults. " There is in his mind a certain 
one-sidedness, we might almost call it narrowness, closely 
allied with his impetuous vigour. His keen sense of beauty 
and his hearty manhood have saved him from becoming a 
dangerous fanatic ; but in The Water-Babies enough of the 
narrowness remains to prevent us from ranking him among 
the great humorists of literature. About Mr. Kingsley 
there linger some of the vehement partialities of youth." 
A week later followed a scholarly notice of The Gladiators, 
showing a wide acquaintance with historical novels. In 
March he contributed a leading article on the Sewing 
Machine, a four-column review of Isaac Taylor's Words 
and Places, filled with curious learning in the region of 
local history, and a technical discussion of the sugar duties 

^ I am greatly indebted to the Times for permitting me to refer to the 
authorship of Courtney's articles and to record the remuneration. 



in the form of a letter from " A Freetrader." On April 19 
he wrote his first political leader on a debate on the sugar 
duties. These unaccustomed triumphs were entered in an 
account-book which was to record the date, subject and 
remuneration of the 3000 articles contributed to the Times 
during the next sixteen years. After six years of struggle 
and disappointment in London the turning-point had come 
at last. Henceforth he occupied a position in the world 
not unworthy of his abiUties, and earned a salary which 
enabled him to hve in modest comfort, to indulge his passion 
for foreign travel, and to offer more substantial assistance 
towards the education of his brothers and sisters. 

Professor Caimes wrote to congratulate the critic on his 
" very clever but too indulgent " review of Kings] ey ; but 
the most welcome letter came as usual from Penzance. 

From Dr. Willan 

March 30, 1864. — I have just read your most charming 
review of Words and Places, and if I could be sure the work 
is as interesting as the review of it I should order it for our 
library. I should long ago have acknowledged your attention 
in sending me your article on The Water-Babies. Now I 
have to congratulate you on your first " Leader," and I know 
you will give me credit for feeling an honest pride in this and 
in all your successes. I saw your review of The Gladiators 
in our Evening Mail. The subject was more to my taste than 
that of The Water-Babies ; but the review of both was 
exhaustive. It is a puzzle to me how you can say so much in 
so small a space. 

When Courtney joined the staff of the Times the famous 
journal was at the zenith of its career. ^ Its circulation was 
about 60,000, and it had no serious competitor. The press 
was still superior to the platform, and the press was the 
Times. The author of its greatness was Barnes, who could 
be seen riding down Parhament Street with a duke walking 
on each side, and who was hailed by Lyndhurst in 1834 ^^ 
" the most powerful man in the country," He had been 

^ See Sir Edward Cook, Delane of the Times. 


ably seconded by Edward Sterling, the chief of his leader- 
writers, Carlyle's " Thunderer," and the father of Carlyle's 
gentle and gifted friend. When Delane succeeded Barnes 
in 1841 at the age of twenty-four it seemed impossible that 
the young man who had only recently left Oxford should 
maintain the paper at the giddy eminence to which it had 
been raised. But doubts quickly melted as the staff came 
to realise the firmness of purpose and the proud independence 
of their new master. Though well aware of his powers and 
rejoicing in his immense responsibiUty the young editor had 
the wisdom to take lessons from Lord Aberdeen, who 
became Peel's Foreign Minister in the same year. But 
Aberdeen was his only political mentor ; for he quickly 
outgrew the need of tutelage, and GranviUe and Palmerston 
were comrades, not counsellors. Possessing friends in 
both the Whig and the Tory camp he heard of events, plans 
and decisions before they were known to other editors, and 
he often surprised the world by the publication of momentous 
news obtained as if by thought-reading or magic. His 
first great coup was the announcement of Peel's fateful 
decision to repeal the Corn Laws ; but it was the Crimean 
War which made him an outstanding national figure and 
one of the acknowledged directors of the policy of the 
country. His decision to publish the despatches of William 
Howard Russell overthrew the Aberdeen Ministry, and it 
was his commanding voice that simimoned Palmerston to 
the helm. It was at this moment that Lord John Russell, 
the only prominent statesman who refused to bum incense 
at his shrine, remarked to GranviUe, " Your friend Mr. 
Delane seems to be drunk with insolence and vanity." 
" What the Tsar is in Russia or the mob in America," wrote 
Anthony Trollope in 1855, " the Jupiter is in England." ^ 
Though by temperament a Palmerstonian Whig he was 
free from all poUtical ties, and for a generation he ad- 
monished the Crown and its servants as a schoolmaster 
rebukes and encourages the members of his class. Honour- 
able, courageous and patriotic, rarely looking ahead and 
blissfully ignorant of the needs and aspirations of the 

^ In The Warden. 


working classes, he was as perfect a representative of mid- 
Victorian England as Palmerston himself. This conformity 
to type was the main source of his power ; and, in moments 
of national or party, crisis crowned heads, ministers and 
legislators waited with bated breath for the voice of the 

A vivid picture of the daily life of Delane has been 
drawn by Dean Wace, one of the two survivors of his 
brilliant staff. ^ " He rarely left the ofhce in Printing 
House Square before five o'clock in the morning, and 
walked to his small house in Serjeants' Inn, a httle square 
off Fleet Street, about a quarter of a mile distant. When 
he rose he would spend three or four hours in arranging the 
work of the day, writing and answering letters ; and some- 
times, especially in my years of apprenticeship, I would 
receive a letter from him about six o'clock, giving me my 
subject and my cue for the work of the evening. About 
the middle of the afternoon his horse was brought to him, 
and, followed by his groom, he rode slowly towards the 
West End. He said to me once that if he started to walk 
from Fleet Street along the Strand to Pall Mall or West- 
minster he would never get there, as so many people would 
buttonhole him. But on his horse, which he rode slowly, 
he could greet them and go on. When the Houses of 
Parhament were in session he would always ride down to 
them, stroll into the House of Commons or the House of 
Lords as he pleased, stand under the gallery, and acquaint 
himself with the parliamentary situation of the day. Peers 
or members who were concerned in the current business 
would speak to him, and thus he was always in touch with 
the prevalent feeUng and tendency in both Houses. Thence 
he would ride on to the Athenaeum or the Reform Club, 
and there he was sure to meet some one interested in the 
poHtical or scientific or legal question of the hour ; or else 
he would ride on to Lady Palmerston's house in Piccadilly, 
or to Baroness Lionel de Rothschild's, or some other great 
leader of political or social Hfe, and carry away at least as 
much suggestion or information as he brought. In the 

^ John Thaddeus Delane, 1908. 


evening the days must have been rare when he was not, or 
could not have been, dining in some society which brought 
him once more into contact with the current interests and 
Mving thoughts of the hour." 

Two more snapshots help us to visuahse the unique 
position which the Editor of the Times occupied in the 
social and poHtical Ufe of London, the first by a man about 
town, the second by a young Tory aristocrat. " It was a 
rare experience," writes Alexander Shand, " to have his 
arm up St. James's Street in the session when the stream 
was setting of a summer afternoon towards the House, and 
to hsten to his amusing commentary of anecdote and 
reminiscence, interspersed with incisive sketches of char- 
acter and careers suggested by passing personahties." ^ 
" Delane's entrance into the lobby was a sight worth witness- 
ing," records Lord George Hamilton. " No pope or autocrat 
could have shown a more lofty condescension to his sub- 
ordinates than he exhibited to the habitues of the lobby, 
and what annoyed me was not so much his assumption of 
superiority but the grovelling sycophancy with which it 
was accepted. He contrived always to have a tame Cabinet 
Minister in his pocket, and he was terribly toadied by a 
certain section of society and particularly by the leading 
Whig ladies of the period," ^ 

The omnipotent editor was ably supported by his staff. 
Fully trusted by John Walter, the proprietor, he was 
equally fortunate in the assistant editor, Dasent, his brother- 
in-law and attached friend, who from 1845 to 1870 assumed 
command when the chief was away. The three men worked 
in perfect harmony and offered an unbroken front to any 
attempt on the part of the staff to dictate the policy of the 
paper. Thus when in 1855 Henry Reeve refused to obey 
Dasent while the editor was enjoying his holiday abroad 
he was promptly dismissed by Walter, though he had been 
the most competent leader-writer on foreign poUcy for 
fifteen years. Delane's subordinates, however, were far too 
able to be merely echoes of their master's voice. Russell 

^ Days of the Past, p. 197. 
* Parliamentary Reminiscences, pp. 24-28. 


had joined the staff in 1842 and leapt into fame during the 
Crimean War. Robert Lowe wrote leaders from 185 1 to 
1868, without allowing his promotion to the Treasury 
Bench to interrupt the connection. Among other members 
of the editorial staff were Thomas Mozley, William Stebbing, 
George Brodrick and Antonio Gallenga. 

In the year before Courtney crossed the threshold of 
Printing House Square there occurred the celebrated duel 
between Cobden and Delane, in which the great editor 
lashed out somewhat viciously at the mild radicaUsm of the 
Manchester school, Courtney's sympathies were with the 
latter ; but he shared the general impression that neither 
of the antagonists had enhanced his reputation. 

From Professor Cairnes 

December 22, 1863. — I agree with you that Cobden had a 
good case and has played it with but indifferent skill ; nor has 
his position been improved by his later strokes of play. At the 
same time I have no words to express my disgust at Delane's 
conduct throughout. Perhaps too it will be found that that 
other question of " dividing the lands of the rich among the 
poor" — as I would express it, of factlitating the acquisition of 
land by the cultivators — ^may survive the labouring of the 

It was a great satisfaction to Cairnes to discover a httle 
later that his own somewhat advanced opinions were shared 
by Comlney. 

From Professor Cairnes 

April 6, 1866. — I am delighted to find that your opinions 
on the land question are " revolutionary " and " socialistic." 
Somehow I fancied that on this point you were rather strictly 
orthodox, and have even felt afraid sometimes to touch on the 
subject with you lest I should discover a gulf between us in a 
matter on which I am inclined to feel rather strongly. But I 
shaU know better in future. 

The Professor's bitter disKke of Delane's poHcy and 
methods tempered his satisfaction at his friend's appoint- 


From Professor Cairnes 

July 17, 1864. — I am sincerely glad to hear you are so active 
in the Times, though I could have wished that your pen had 
been enlisted on the other side. 

November 28, 1864. — Mr. Delane, I fancy, would place the 
" golden age " — ^if the Union were only once split in two and 
reform aspirations stifled — somewhere in this present year of 

Mr. Stebbing, his friend and colleague, who succeeded 
Dasent as Assistant Editor in 1870, has kindly contributed 
a survey of Courtney's connection with Printing House 
Square : 

"To be a leader-writer on the Times has always been 
esteemed a distinction from the days of Edward Sterhng, 
the original Thunderer, In Courtney's time a mystery of 
no very dark kind encircled the occupation. A man scarcely 
could disappear more or less regularly from a party at a 
friend's house shortly before ten o'clock at night without 
remark. Everybody knew the cause, though it was the 
fashion not to give it a name. The fact could not be hidden 
from Courtney's circle, now wide, at Lincoln's Inn, and it 
spread — an open secret. Within Printing House Square, 
where there were seniors of his on the staff, he soon made 
his mark. Particular lines in the paper's policy, fighting 
lines, were reserved for him. An editor likes to believe 
any in his troop ready on occasion to condescend to trifles. 
Courtney could, when the humour was on him. Thus, I 
remember, he volunteered for a romantic defence of the 
Bargee people against the reduction of its Bedouins of 
inland waters within too strict educational discipline. It 
was very pleasant pleading. The editorial authority for 
its own part was too sagacious often to waste a man-at- 
arms of this extraordinary worth upon letting off fire- 

" Delane among his many great editorial gifts had a 
wonderful instinct and experience in foreign politics. He 
expected writers on them to reflect with fair closeness his 
spirit. He would consider, but might or might not be 


moved to accept, deviations. In domestic legislation, for 
which he cared less, he was far from being dictatorial. 
Courtney, he recognised, had studied and thought on such 
questions, and was to be edited not repressed. After as 
well as before I joined the inner circle of the paper, Courtney 
and I never discussed agreements or disagreements of the 
sort. I am certain he had no reason to be dissatisfied. 
Morahsts may dilate with satisfaction on the short span of 
joumahstic vitahty. It would be well for budding statesmen 
if they took a good long course of Courtney's easily dis- 
covered leaders on any much-debated legislative reform. 
The trenchant, massive logic, the exposure of ignorance, 
the downright deahng with irrelevance ! He did not affect 
or care to be a styhst. Style itself in its place he appreciated. 
When words were to be followed by acts he never paused 
for one to turn a sentence. Sound, sturdy English was 
enough for him. He might be dogmatic ; he was never 
obscure, never professorial, never from beginning to end 
of an article lost sight of its object. Parliamentary advo- 
cates of a position attacked by him felt obliged to reply to 
an argument of his in the Times, as if it had been urged 
from the opposite side of the House. On one memorable 
question, that of the Minority Vote, it will scarcely be 
disputed that support by him in the Times was mainly 
answerable for its acceptance. He had a right to be satis- 
fied ; I never knew him to boast of the achievement. The 
single exception to the rule of which I am aware has been 
recorded by himself. 

" Personally, a few weeks before his death, he recalled 
by a letter in the Times a leader of his which protested 
against the German annexation of Alsace-Lorraine. French 
and German diplomacy before the war had been ahke 
guilty of shameless plotting against weaker innocent states. 
Great Britain had no cause to approve of either Government. 
She had the happiness through her streak of silver sea to be 
able to stand neutral and exercised the right. The Times 
had not from the first doubted as to the military result. 
Without the least partisanship it chronicled the stages. 
Consideration was required in reminding exultant victors 


of the perilous consequences to their tranquillity of rapacity. 
I rejoice in Courtney's powerful warning in the name of the 
Times against a violence apparent even to Bismarck. Alas 
for the world, alas for Germany, that militarism was supreme 
and would not listen to friendly, even to native counsels 
of moderation ! 

" An ordinary leading article of the old-fashioned length 
means a night's hard brain-work and pen-work of some 
three hours. Trained intelligence in that time will yield 
good thought. Courtney after early days could anticipate 
his subject, and grudged no labour on preparation. If it. 
were a Bill, he had dissected, pondered the text and any 
preliminary discussion. Frequently he managed to hear 
a debate from the Strangers' Gallery in the Commons, or 
in the ventilating vault beneath the House. Eventually he 
received from the Speaker the privilege of entry within the 
House at discretion. The act of courtesy was for himself 
a foretaste. Long since he had given up such slight care 
as he ever had for success at the Bar. He retained his 
share in Chambers for the convenience of their comparative 
neighbourhood to Printing House Square. His spring at 
eminence in journalism was nerved by the relationship to a 
career in politics. As a matter of course he had declined 
an offer by Mr. John Walter, the then principal proprietor 
and manager of the Times, of the City, Financial or Money 
Article editorship. He was not of a nature to intimate 
his ultimate ambition. None of his intimates can, however,, 
have been surprised when, on a vacancy in 1876 for the 
Cornish borough of Liskeard, he declared himself a candidate 
and was elected." 

Though the Cobdenite lamb could hardly be expected 
to lie down peacefully beside the Palmerstonian lion, the 
new recruit quickly estabhshed the friendliest relations, 
with his chief ; and the two men often attended the debates 
together and dined in company. The end of the Civil War 
in America a year after his appointment removed the main, 
bone of contention ; and during Gladstone's first Ministry 
the Times advanced from its cautious Whiggism to a stand- 
point of moderate Liberalism, supporting the disestablish.- 


ment of the Irish Church, the Irish Land Bill of 1870, the 
ballot, the abolition of purchase in the army, and even the 
principle of minority representation. Delane recognised 
to the full Courtney's range of info'rmation, independent 
judgment and powers of work, and, knowing the views of 
his several Ueutenants, he entrusted to each such orders 
as he knew could be conscientiously and cheerfully obeyed. 
The routine of a leader-writer's life has been vividly 
described by Dean Wace : " Delane generally came away 
from dinner in time to reach Printing House Square about 
ten P.M., or at least before eleven, and then he had to bring 
to bear upon the materials laid before him, whether of the 
telegraph, or of parliamentary reporters or correspondents' 
letters, the knowledge of the real position of affairs which 
he had been gaining during the day. There were generally 
two or three leader-writers in attendance, in separate rooms, 
and in a short time after his arrival he would send to each 
of them, unless they had been previously instructed, the 
subject he wished them to treat. If its treatment were 
obvious, he would leave them to themselves with no more 
than a verbal message. But if it were a matter of difficulty 
or doubt he would soon come into the writer's room, and in 
a few minutes' conversation indicate the hne which it was 
desirable to take and the considerations which t^e writer 
should have in the background. He never gave these 
suggestions in such detail as to hamper original treatment 
on the writer's part. A few interesting and humorous 
observations would suffice to illustrate the true state of the 
question and to indicate the purpose to be kept in view, 
and then the more original the writer's treatment of the 
subject the better he was pleased. His influence in such 
conversations was due, not so much to his authority as 
editor, as to the impression he produced of mastery of the 
whole situation. To talk to him was hke talking to the 
great political or social world itself, and one's mind seemed 
to move in a larger sphere after a short discussion with 
him. He always Ustened patiently to enquiries or hesita- 
tions, and was tolerant of everything but trivialities. He 
watched with the utmost care not merely the substance and 


the general argument of an article, but every detail of 
expression. He could correct commas at 3.30 a.m., and 
would write one of his brilliant little notes at that hour to 
warn a writer against an incorrect expression. He was 
very considerate if one of his subordinates was in real 
difficulty, as from illness or domestic trouble, but in the 
ordinary course of work he would take no excuses. A man 
must do the work given him, and do it well, or else Delane 
had no place for him," 

The leader-writers of the Tivies formed a band, the 
members of which were as a rule unknown to one another. 
It was said of Delane that he " kept his beasts in separate 
cages," and if they met in the passages or on the stairs it 
was not etiquette to speak. " You will no doubt be sur- 
prised to hear that I knew nothing of Lord Courtney in the 
old Delane days," writes Dean Wace, " To the best of my 
belief I never met him in Printing House Square during 
the seventeen years I worked there. I knew his name as 
a fellow leader-writer, and I was aware sometimes of his 
presence in an adjoining room ; and a misdirected letter 
from Delane to him once came into my hands. But I 
believe I never once saw him until I met him and I think 
Lady Courtney one day at dinner at Mr, Stebbing's house." 
The dinner-party took place some years after all three had 
severed their connection with the Times. 

The Times leaders were suggested and revised by the 
editor, who was not less critical of the form than of the 
substance. " However trivial or lofty the subject," writes 
George Brodrick, " he expected it to be treated in good 
simple English, without slang or technicality. But I never 
found him unduly censorious. He scarcely ever corrected 
what I had written, and never altered its sense, though he 
would occasionally strike out a sentence or even a paragraph 
which might commit the paper too far." ^ When, however, 
questions of high policy were involved the writer was some- 
times little more than a shorthand clerk, so precise were his 
instructions and so drastic the revision. For instance, in 
the leaders which record the passing of Cobden, Lincoln and 

^ Memories and Impressions, chap. vii. 


Palmerston in 1865, though the pen was held by Courtney, 
we hear the authentic accents of Delane. Here is the verdict 
of Printing House Square on the greatest of Free Traders. 
" That his political career was not faultless few would deny, 
and it would be idle in us, who have often had occasion to 
differ from him, to conceal it. Outside the range of economic 
doctrine he ran athwart the opinions of his countrjnmen. 
His remonstrances during the Russian war were so little 
effectual that he resolved to retire for a season from pubhc 
life should such a crisis recur. The explanation of this 
anomaly may perhaps be found in the defects of his early 
training. Introduced when very young into a business 
life, his notion of the State was Uttle more than that of a 
machinery to secure the punctual observance of commercial 
relations. Had he received the classical education which 
he often took occasion to contemn, he would probably 
have escaped from such Hmited views and have sympathised 
with wider aspirations." No less grudging was the tribute 
to Lincoln, whom the Times had combated until victory 
declared itself unmistakably on his side. While admitting 
that " in spite of drawbacks of manner and errors of taste 
he slowly won for himself the respect and confidence of all, 
and his perfect honesty speedily became apparent," Delane 
is unaware that he is dealing with one of the noblest figures 
of the modem world. When, however, we pass from 
Cobden and Lincoln to Palmerston, we exchange the cold 
grey sky for a pageant of Venetian colouring. " Among 
the statesmen who sleep in the Abbey there may be some 
whose intellectual power wiU be estimated by after genera- 
tions above that of Lord Palmerston, but none of whom it 
can be said that he was more beloved by his contemporaries. 
His one thought was the honour and glory of England." 

When Palmerston left the arena Delane sorrowfully 
admitted that Lord RusseU, " the representative of the 
narrowest school of Whiggism," was for the moment in- 
evitable. But behind the ageing Prime Minister stood 
Gladstone, to whom all eyes turned. The Whig Delane 
had no great love for either the Liberal Gladstone or the 
Tory Disraeli ; but his attitude towards the new leader of 


the House was certainly not more critical than that of his 
latest recruit. "If we were required to name the quality 
of Mr. Gladstone's mind which chiefly detracts from the 
great gifts he possesses and mars the influence he would 
otherwise wield," wrote Courtney in a four-column review 
of his Financial Statements, " we should point to his weak 
feeling of proportion. And every one must have noticed 
his remarkable fertility of belief impelling him to ardent 
and confident utterances on subjects which others approach 
with doubt and hesitation. He muses for a season over a 
particular subject, and its importance rapidly rises in his 
mind. The counter-checks and qualifications which are 
involved in its relations with other facts are overlooked 
or forgotten. His literary adventures are marked by the 
same precipitancy and want of balance. He sees too many 
objects to be constant to one, and he sees them too im- 
perfectly to know that he ought to be constant to one. 
Thus a man of great gifts is doomed to occupy a lower rank 
than one of more restricted powers. Burke, with all his 
genius and breadth of philosophy, was as a practical states- 
man inferior to Pitt. Mr. Gladstone is an Anglican Burke, 
and the distrust with which ordinary Englishmen regarded 
his great original pursues him. Such men are reckoned 
troublesome opponents but dangerous allies. While associ- 
ated with them we know not whither we may be led, nor 
what paradox we may be required to defend." These 
stinging sentences were penned in 1864 ; and though the 
writer was one day to learn something of the greatness of 
" the Anglican Burke," he might have quoted them in 
1886 as a prophetic denunciation of the fiery champion of 
Home Rule. 

Palmerston's longevity had postponed Parliamentary 
Reform ; and the first task of the Russell Ministry was to 
deal with the franchise. But though the need of some 
advance was almost universally conceded, the widest 
differences existed as to the changes that were desirable. 
Four unsuccessful attempts had been made since 1832 ; 
but their authors had been half-hearted, and public opinion 
was indifferent till it was educated by Bright. Delane was 



no democrat ; but he knew that the moment had come, 
and he extended a steady though discriminating support 
to the efforts of the Reformers. His views as to the necessity 
and character of the advance, the need of redistribution and 
minority representation, were shared by Courtney, to whom 
it fell to write the leaders throughout the prolonged discus- 
sions. Possessing the confidence of his chief, an exhaustive 
acquaintance with the problem, and a clear idea of the 
route he desired to travel, he exerted a real influence on 
the changing course of events ; and he might without 
presumption have claimed a place among the authors of the 
second of our four Reform Bills. 

From the outset Courtney insisted that the Government 
should deal with the situation on comprehensive lines. " We 
are now told," he wrote on February 20, " that simultane- 
ously with the Franchise Bill a second Bill will be introduced 
dealing with the question of redistribution. We are glad 
to hear it. A perfect House of Commons ought to be a 
representation in miniature of all the social forces of the 
nation. It ought not to be possible to name any interest 
which had not its peculiar defenders, to speak of any class 
which could not point to representatives identified with 
themselves. The actual House goes further than any 
representative body in the world to realise this picture, but 
it is still far behind what it might be made. The vulgar 
theories of universal suffrage, to which mere reductions of 
the franchise point, are of course absolutely incompatible 
with perfect representation. A mere Franchise Bill could 
not pass." The rumour was unfounded ; and when the 
Franchise Bill was introduced on March 12 he gave vent to 
his angry disappointment. " It is impossible," he wrote, 
" to feel otherwise than languid and careless about a measure 
which would only unsettle the whole electoral system." 
The changes were limited to England and Wales, and there 
was no reference to redistribution, without which it would 
never pass. An amendment to the Second Reading de- 
clining to reduce the franchise till the Government produced 
a complete scheme for the representation of the people was 
only defeated by a majority of five. The Ministry took 


fright and promised a Redistribution Bill. The new 
measure, introduced eariy m May, was welcomed as " fair 
and moderate," " so simple and practical that we ask why 
it was not introduced before." There was, however, no 
great enthusiasm for Reform, and the Whig recalcitrants, 
following Lowe into the Cave of Adullam, combined with 
the Tory opposition and defeated the Government in Com- 
mittee on an amendment to substitute rating for rental. 

Lord Russell was succeeded by Disraeli, who was quite 
ready to execute a volte face, despite the repugnance to 
Reform of Lord Cranbome and others of his colleagues. 
The popular demand, moreover, was growing, and the 
Hyde Park riots on July 25, which Courtney witnessed and 
described in an anonymous letter to the Times, frightened 
the waverers into action. At the beginning of 1867 he 
reviewed the situation in a hopeful spirit. Since the leaders 
were agreed on many points, the problem should be simple. 
Delay was dangerous, and genuine reformers should accept 
any practical suggestions from whatever quarter. " With 
a Conservative Ministry in power and a strong but friendly 
Opposition," he added on February 18, " it ought to be 
possible to carry a change neither half-hearted nor departing 
from the ancient lines of the constitution. We appeal to 
all parties to join in a sincere attempt." When, however, 
the Government scheme saw the hght, it was even more 
soundly belaboured than that of Lord Russell. It was 
" the worst scheme ever introduced," and its fancy fran- 
chises were impossible. Mill's gallant attempt to secure 
woman suffrage was doomed to failure ; and Courtney 
concentrated his attention on the need for minority re- 
presentation. " The question of the hour," he wrote on 
March 13, " is. What is the best mode of preventing the 
benefits of representative government from being drowned 
in the enfranchisement of the most numerous classes of the 
nation ? Plurahty of votes is impossible ; but cumulative 
voting for constituencies returning three members will 
secure diversity of counsel. How far it should be carried 
is a matter for discussion ; but as to its policy there is 
really no question." When Mill put down a resolution 


enabling electors in different parts of the country to combine 
for the election of a representative, the proposal was dis- 
missed by the Times as miinteUigible and impracticable. 
The true policy was the cmnulative vote which would repre- 
sent every party in proportion to its numbers. " The 
Representation of Minorities," wrote Courtney on June 3, 
"is an unfortunate phrase. It suggests the notion of weak, 
helpless persons crying for some unusual assistance in the 
attempt to keep their place in the struggle for hfe." The 
cumulative vote was fair to the majority no less than to 
the minority, for both would secure their rights and no 
more than their rights. " Never in the memory of the 
present generation has the House of Commons been so free 
from prejudices as at this moment. All propositions have 
a chance. The cumulative vote must be adopted if dis- 
passionately examined. The Government, having passed 
the franchise, seem to have come to the end of their tether. 
The House is thus free to entertain suggestions from which 
it would have shrunk as visionary six months ago." 

Courtney's labours were warmly appreciated by the 
friends of proportional representation. 

From Professor Cannes 

June 7, 1867. — I am delighted to see the efforts you are 
making to arouse the country to the importance of redistribu- 
tion and more especially to the unspeakable importance of 
liberating independent voters from the despotism of local 
majorities. I observed a few weeks ago that you were bold 
enough to propound the principle of Hare's scheme ; ^ and I 
thought, Is it possible that the Times is about to be the apostle 
of a truth that is not commonplace ? Alas, as I feared, the 
oracle knew not the precious things it was uttering. In the 
article on Mill's speech it has effectually vindicated its essential 

Caimes was a little too severe on the Times, for Delane 
accepted the principle of minority representation ; but 

1 " Hare's book," remarked Caimes to Courtney on one occasion, 
" proves itself. As you read it you can no more resist the conclusions 
than you can resist a proposition in EucUd." See Courtney's obituary 
notice of Hare in Athenesum, May 16, 1891. 


his support would have been lukewarm and ineffective 
without the apostolic fervour of his lieutenant. " I 
have told Courtney he may ride his cumulative hobby 
to-morrow," he wrote to Dasent before leaving town for 
the Ascot races, " and he proposes to quote the great 
authorities in its favour. Don't let him ride it too far." ^ 

The Redistribution Bill was introduced on June 13 ; 
but it found little favour in Printing House Square. In 
Committee Lowe proposed the cumulative vote without 
success ; but the Bill emerged in an improved form. " It 
is the monument of many minds," wrote Courtney on July 
12. "It embodies the ideas of no Cabinet and no Minister. 
The Chancellor of the Exchequer has conducted it through 
the House, but he is not the author of the Bill. The work 
of the Ministry was valueless." On July 31 he raised his 
voice in thanksgiving for the acceptance of Lord Cairns's 
amendment providing for the representation of minorities 
in constituencies returning three members. Lord Malmes- 
bury opposed the proposal on behalf of the Government, 
as Disraeli had opposed it in the House of Commons ; but 
nearly every speaker joined in its praises. " Such a 
triumph of reason and truth may well startle us. The 
supposed crotchet of yesterday has become a fact. The 
voters who are now hopelessly outvoted will start into 
fresh vitality, enfranchised in deed, not only in word." 
Two days later a leader entitled " Victory " joyfully re- 
corded the Commons' acceptance of the amendment, despite 
the antagonism of Gladstone and Bright. " Minority repre- 
sentation," he wrote in 19 14, " became a living question 
in the debates of 1867, when Mr. Mill and Mr. Fawcett, 
supporters of the Bill, and Mr. Lowe and Lord Robert 
Cecil, strong opponents of it, pressed for the introduction 
of the principle into the measure, which introduction was 
ultimately carried despite the continued opposition of the 
three leading poUtical personages of the time — Mr. Glad- 
stone, Mr. Disraeli and Mr. Bright. The controversy was 
fierce to a degree now scarcely to be apprehended." ^ He 

^ Delane's Life, ii. 203. 
* Memories of John Westlake, chap. iv. 


does not add that the partial victory was largely due to 
the powerful advocacy of a certain leader-writer on the 

Three years after the passing of the Reform Bill it was 
Courtney's responsible duty to convey to the world Delane's 
opinions on the Franco-German War.^ The views of the 
two men on the general merits of the struggle coincided. 
Both of them knew and loved France ; but neither of them 
admired the character or the policy of her ruler. Never 
had the oracle of Printing House Square spoken with more 
unfaltering accents than when Napoleon IIL plunged 
madly into war. The conflict was denounced as a crime, 
the pretext as " disgracefully frivolous." " The war is for 
the Rhine, which has for centuries been the avowed object 
of French ambition. Every German has passed his life in 
pondering on this very struggle, which has come at last. 
The Emperor stakes his dynasty on success." The publica- 
tion of Benedetti's draft treaty of 1867 in the issue of July 
25 suppUed a text for further denunciations of the Imperial 
mischief-maker ; and when the danger to Belgium thus 
revealed stirred the Government to threaten with war 
whichever belligerent violated its neutrality, the Times was 
emphatic in its approval. 

Courtney's sentiments of grief and indignation were 
shared by the leaders of the historic parties. The Prime 
Minister described the war as the most melancholy event 
of the century, and Disraeh declared that it had been begun 
on pretexts that would have been considered disgraceful 
even in the eighteenth century. When the news of the 
early defeats came pouring in, wrath against the Emperor 
was mingled with sympathy for his suffering subjects. 
" Unhappy France, unhappy Emperor ! " wrote the Times 
on August 16. " What madness wantonly provoked this 
unequal contest ? " Yet France was far from innocent. 
When Thiers set forth after Sedan on his mission to the 

1 " Nothing shall ever persuade me except the event," wrote Delane 
to W. H. Russell, " that the Prussians will withstand the French, and I 
would lay my last shilUng on Casquette against Pumpernickel " (Atkins, 
Life of W. H. Russell, ii. 165). Courtney disagreed and sent his chief a 
pencilled note, " Are you sure ? " 


Courts of Europe in search of mediators, he was informed 
with almost brutal plainness that he had nothing to hope 
from England. "It is impossible to acquit the French 
nation of complicity in the unprovoked attack upon 
Germany. France cannot be encouraged in the hope of 
escaping scatheless from a war she wantonly undertook. 
The dethronement of the Emperor cannot free the nation 
from the penalties of sanctioning the Imperial policy. 
The war must go on till the French people are ready to 
acknowledge that they have been guilty of wrong towards 
their neighbours and to give sureties against a repetition 
of it." Moreover, Thiers was not the man for such a 
mission. " Above all others he helped to develop that 
hateful idea of French dictatorship in Europe which was at 
once the secret of the Emperor's power and the cause of his 

Courtney, like Delane, desired Germany to win, and 
declared that the King of Prussia had " at every step given 
evidence of that spirit of simple piety which animates his 
breast." But he had no desire for a vindictive settlement, 
Germany was advised to seek securities against future 
aggression, but not to humiliate a proud nation. " We 
ask Germans to reconsider their demand for Alsace-Lorraine. 
The annexation would bring a legacy of diihculty to Ger- 
many and leave France with a constantly irritating sense 
of injury." The wiser course would be to neutralise the 
provinces by denuding them of fortresses and troops. No 
British statesman or journalist was a more ardent supporter 
of Germany than Delane ; and Courtney's desire to restrain 
the conquerors in their hour of triumph caused him some 
annoyance. " I have asked Mozley to write a leader on 
mediation," he wrote to Dasent, September 30, "a subject 
on which C. is hopelessly wrong. I suspect he is inspired 
by Fawcett, and he would have us perpetually scolding at 
Bismarck and telling him he must not take Alsace and 
Lorraine, and offering to mediate for him without these 
conditions, on which, as I need not tell you, aU Germany 
has set its heart. The Cabinet to-day unanimously decided 
against this fretful poUcy, and it is of no use snapping at 


them about it. But if you give C. a chance, he will. He 
is, however, very good to write on any question connected 
with the war into which neither mediation nor the conditions 
of peace enter." ^ 

At the outbreak of war the Times had suggested that 
Great Britain should cultivate friendly relations with 
Russia and Austria with a view to joint mediation at some 
future date ; and on October 15 it declared that the time 
had come for the three chief neutrals to propose the dis- 
mantling of Alsace-Lorraine and to guarantee active support 
to either belligerent in future if attacked by the other 
without first submitting the dispute to their arbitration. 
Such a proposal would probably be rejected ; but it was 
worth making, since the war was growing in ferocity. 
" It was several days before the 15th of October," wrote 
Lord Courtney, forty-seven years later, in reprinting the 
leader, 2 " that I first suggested to Mr. Delane the idea of 
my writing an article proposing mediation. He was not 
favourable to the proposal ; and indeed he had known on 
the 30th of September that the Cabinet had rejected media- 
tion. He and I, however, continued casual talks on the 
subject until he consented to my making the trial. I must 
admit that the result justified his hesitation." The sugges- 
tion of mediation surprised many readers of the Times ; 
but Lord Morley has revealed the fact that the Prime 
Minister himself desired to co-operate with the other neutrals 
in a protest against the transfer of Alsace-Lorraine without 
reference to the wishes of their inhabitants, but failed to 
carry the Cabinet. 

A few days later the British Government proposed an 
armistice for the summoning of a Constituent Assembly, 
and urged Russia and Austria to join in the recommenda- 
tion. The invitation was naturally refused, and on the 
surrender of Metz the Times exclaimed " Finis Galliae," 
and called on her to recognise her defeat. If the price 
of peace was indeed the surrender of Alsace and part of 
Lorraine, she must make up her mind to pay it. There was 

* Delane' s Life, ii. 270-71. 
* Alsace-Lorraine : A Memorial of i8yo. 


now a good deal of friction between Courtney and Delane, 
who explained the situation to Dasent on November 9, on 
the eve of his autumn holiday. " The most important 
thing I have to tell you about things here is that C, whose 
zeal and assiduity cannot be too highly praised, has taken 
a wrong twist about the war, and especially about the 
negotiations, and wishes to be violently anti-Ministerial. 
I am no worshipper of Gladstone, and think he has shewn 
himself eminently ' parochial ' all through the war ; but 
Granville has, I believe, done all that could be done with 
any safety or indeed any advantage. I think it was we 
who principally egged him on into proposing the armistice, 
for which C. now would bitterly reproach him. I was 
obliged to-night to leave out his article on the speeches 
at the Guildhall. It was so violently adverse that I am 
•sure it would have jarred upon the popular sentiment. 
I am very sorry for this, for C. has worked most 
manfully ; indeed I have never known anybody take so 
much trouble to cram into his article the last scrap of 
intelligence." ^ 

Courtney's opposition to the annexation of the Rhine 
Provinces roused the ire of an even greater man than 
Delane. On November 18 the Times pubhshed the cele- 
brated letter from the veteran historian of Frederick the 
Great which was read with rapture and remembered with 
gratitude by Germans all over the world. "It is probably 
an amiable trait of human nature," began Carlyle, " this 
cheap pity and newspaper lamentation over fallen and 
afflicted France ; but it seems to me a very idle, dangerous 
and misguided feeling as applied to the cession of Alsace 
and Lorraine, and argues a most profound ignorance of the 
conduct of France towards Germany for long centuries 
back." He proceeded to review the history of the border- 
land, and concluded that it would be folly for Germany 
not to raise up a boundary fence between herself and such 
a neighbour. The letter closed on a note of heartfelt 
thanksgiving. " That noble, patient, deep, pious and solid 
Germany should be at length welded into a nation and 

^ Delane' s Life, ii. 270-71. 


become Queen of the Continent, instead of vapouring, 
vainglorious, gesticulating, quarrelsome, restless and over- 
sensitive France, seems to me the hopefuUest pubHc fact 
that has occurred in my time." 

The same issue of the Times which printed Carlyle's 
letter contained a dignified reply by Courtney in the form 
of a leading article. France, he admits, had attacked 
neighbours of whose union she was jealous, and had been 
beaten, and must suffer appropriate penalties. " If it were 
necessary for the future security of German peace that a 
portion of the French people should be torn from the body 
to which they chng, the claim to sever Alsatians and 
Lorrainers from their countrymen would be just. If it is 
unnecessary, much less if it threatens to be injurious, it 
must be condemned ; for it overrides for no purpose the law 
of freedom that must prevail unless supreme considerations 
of safety put it aside. Mr. Carlyle gives no sign that he 
has balanced these considerations, but, treating provinces 
as chattels and their inhabitants as vermin that may 
incidentally swarm about them, pronounces it to be per- 
fectly just, rational and wise that Germany should take 
Alsace and Lorraine. We do not wish to imitate this 
dogmatism. Is it necessary to the peace of Germany ? 
That is the question. Are the other securities the French 
people are wilUng to give for their future behaviour suffi- 
cient ? If they are, the demand of the conquerors, being 
unnecessary, is unjust, irrational and foohsh." 

While Europe was watching the collapse of France with 
breathless interest, Russia suddenly flung a new apple of 
discord into the diplomatic world. Gortschakoff's circular, 
denouncing the Black Sea clauses of the Treaty of 1856, 
was received on November 15, and on November 16 the 
Times expressed " profound regret, not unmixed with 
indignation." It had believed Alexander II. to stand for 
peace ; but it had been grievously disappointed. The 
circular had reopened the Eastern question at the wrong 
time and in the worst manner. It was impossible to admit 
for a moment the claim of Russia to free herself from the 
Treaty of Paris. If this was allowed, what trust could be 


reposed in any treaty ? Lord Granville had issued a grave 
protest, and we could not recede from our position. " The 
prospect of peace may at any moment vanish from our 
eyes," wrote the Times on Novenber 19. " We have to 
face the possibility that before 1870 closes every one of the 
Great Powers may be in arms. It does not rest with us 
to maintain peace. It is impossible to allow the force of 
public law to be overthrown in this manner. If Russia 
proceeds to fortify the shores of the Black Sea and to launch 
vessels of war on its waters, our duty will be painful but 
unavoidable. We should never enforce a treaty at variance 
with the higher law ; but this was innocent, if not laudable." 
The menacing tone of the Times was challenged by Mill 
and Froude, who maintained that, though resentment was 
justifiable, not every breach of treaty should be followed 
by hostihties, and that England should not fight if Russia 
refused to withdraw.^ When Gortschakoff's bomb burst in 
London Delane was on his way to Italy, and Dasent was in 
command at Printing House Square. The editor naturally 
resented Russia's high - handed action ; but Courtney's 
polemics were a little too hot for his taste. 

/. T. Delane to G. W. Dasent 

Naples, November 24. — We found Saturday's paper on our 
arrival, and C.'s article on Gortschakoff, and Mill's and Froude 's 
letters, I confess, rather frightened me. I most wiUingly accept 
firmness and plain speaking as a means of preventing war, and 
therefore approve of Granville's reply to Gortschakoff ; but I 
by no means accept it as an engagement binding us to consider 
the infraction of the treaty as a casus belli. Every one of our 
allies is equally bound, and it is no part of our duty to perform 
the whole police of the world. I am all for protesting as vigor- 
ously as possible, but not for undertaking any obligation which 
our allies will not share. 

There is a certain piquancy in the notion of the Philo- 
sophic Radical's bellicose ardour being held in check by 
his Palmerstonian chief. He was promptly switched off 
Russia, and the leader of November 30, the work of another 

^ A long private letter to Courtney is printed in Mill's Letters, ii. 281. 


hand, breathes a more accommodating spirit. The treaty, 
it declared, must be maintained till it was modified by the 
same authority that made it. " But there is no immediate 
danger — if we are true to ourselves, no danger at all. Russia 
has challenged the parties to the Treaty in a document more 
offensive than any put forth in the present century. But a 
mere insult is not a sufficient cause of war." Let Prussia, 
who was doubtless as pained as Great Britain, arrange a 
conference of the signatories of the Treaty of 1856. 

When Delane was back Courtney was allowed to write 
on Russia again. But the crisis was past, and the idea of 
a Conference proved generally acceptable. His leader of 
March 15, 1871, hailed with unqualified satisfaction the 
Treaty of London, which recognised the fait accompli but 
secured an acknowledgement that no Power could free 
itself from the obligations of a Treaty without the consent 
of its co-signatories. " Thus we are honourably free from 
the guarantee of a restriction to which our predecessors had 
pledged us, but which we could not but regard as impolitic 
if not unjust." 

The second half of Courtney's service under Delane was 
far less eventful, both at home and abroad, than the first. 
While extending a general support to the Gladstone Ministry, 
the editor allowed his lieutenant to wage victorious war 
against the Irish University BiU of 1873 ; but that was the 
last political topic on which he took or desired to take a 
strong line. The first two years of Disraeli's rule were 
uneventful ; and when the crisis in the Near East reached 
its height he was able to express his opinions in the House 
of Commons without editorial supervision. 

Like other members of the staff of the Times, Courtney 
was frequently called upon to produce articles of a non- 
political character ; and his wide acquaintance with litera- 
ture and art, science and scholarship, fitted him for his 
exacting task. Among such contributions were obituary 
notices of celebrities like Faraday and Bulwer Lytton, 
Whewell and Boole, and leaders on such diverse themes as 
Tyndall's Belfast Address, the Rubens Tercentenary, the 
election of Leighton to the Presidency of the Royal Academy, 


Whistler's law-suit against Ruskin, an exhibition of Old 
Masters, the novels of Ouida, and the death of Panizzi, the 
masterful librarian of the British Museum, His intimate 
knowledge of France lends peculiar interest to his character 
studies of such men as Enfantin, the second founder of St. 
Simonianism, and Prevost-Paradol, the most accomplished 
publicist of the Second Empire. It was a pleasure to the 
hfe-long student of Carlyle to be entrusted with the duty 
of pronouncing judgement on the Edinburgh Rectorial 
Address, in which he discovered " the old truths, the old 
platitudes and the old errors," but also a new and welcome 
mellowness. " No one would claim for Mr. Gladstone (his 
immediate predecessor in the office) the same intensity of 
power ; but in his abundant energy, his wide sympathy 
with popular movement, and his real if vague faith in the 
activity and progress of modem life, he conveys lessons of 
trust in the present and hopefulness for the future which 
would be ill-exchanged for the patient and somewhat sad 
stoicism of Mr. Carlyle." The last of his leaders was a 
finely-phrased tribute to George Eliot. 

Delane had worked night and day since 1841, and as 
early as 1875 rumours of his impaired health began to 
circulate ; but he was naturally indignant at groundless 
reports of his intended retirement. 

Delane to Dasent 

June 15, 1875. — Please contradict the report in Vanity 
Fair that I have resigned and that Courtney is to succeed me. 
Neither is true.^ 

The great renunciation, however, could only be post- 
poned for two years, and in 1877 he had convinced himself 
that he must say farewell to the journal in which he had 
found the happiness and the pride of his Ufe. " There was 
much wild speculation as to Delane 's successor," writes 
Alexander Shand. " More than one member of the staff 
was named as being in the running, and gossip insisted with 

^ Delane' s Life, ii. 316. 


great confidence that the mantle was to light on the 
shoulders of a distinguished Government official. The 
knowing ones were all wrong ; no one named the winner, 
and the decision came as a surprise. One evening when 
dining with Mr. Stebbing — ^he had virtually edited the 
paper in Delane's decline — I made the acquaintance of Mr. 
Chenery, an eminent Orientalist, Professor of Arabic at 
Oxford, and one of Delane's most valued collaborators. 
As Chenery told me afterwards, ' That evening I had my 
commission in my pocket.' In many respects he was 
admirably equipped ; but he had taken to the leadership 
too late in life and he could scarcely be called a popular 
editor." i 

Before appointing Chenery the proprietor of the Times 
had naturally weighed the claims of other possible candi- 
dates for the post. Mr. Thursfield has kindly contributed 
his recollections of his first visit to Bearwood in the autumn 
of 1877.2 " After telhng me that Mr. Delane had resigned 
and that Mr. Chenery had been appointed in his place, 
an appointment which had been arranged some months 
previously — Mr. Walter added, " Some people seem to 
have thought that I should appoint Mr. Courtney to be 
editor, but I never entertained that idea myself. He is a 
very able man, and he has done very good work for the 
paper. But he is not the man to be Editor of the Times, 
and I am fortified in that opinion by what I have seen of 
him in Parliament.' " Courtney himself had no desire for 
the post, for his eyes were turned towards a Parliamentary 
career. " I remember once, long ago," wrote John Scott 
in 1884, " on one of our walks we talked of your being 
Editor of the Times. You said you would not have the 
place if it were offered. I often think of it when I see the 
Times floundering now. The abihty is there, but the direc- 
tion seems to have lost all insight. It would have been a 
great power in your hands." 

^ Days of My Life, p. 201. 
' Letter to the author, July 4, 1918. 



Throughout life Courtney's favourite relaxation was 
foreign travel ; and when the monthly cheques began to 
arrive from Printing House Square with amiable regularity 
he felt at liberty to indulge his taste on a more generous 
scale. In 1864, the first autumn of his affluence, he visited 
Brittany, a country of pecuHar interest to a Cornishman, 
and sent home long accounts of " our Breton kinsmen." 
" I am much impressed with the similarity between the 
Cornish and Breton type of face," he told his father. " I 
have been struck with it again and again." He traversed 
the country from end to end, armed with fimile Souvestre ^ 
and other guides, and ended with a brief visit to Paris. 
Two years later he crossed the Atlantic and visited the 
United States on the morrow of the Civil War. In 1867 
his sisters Margaret and Louise joined him in a seven 
weeks' tour through France, Switzerland and Northern 
Italy. In 1868 he paid his first visit to Ireland. In 
1869 he chose Greece and Constantinople for his goal, 
carrying with him diplomatic introductions supplied by 
Lord Clarendon at the instance of Delane, and voyaging 
down the Danube with Edward Dicey. In the year of 
the Franco-German War, for the first and last time, he 
scorned delights and lived laborious days. In 1871, 
accompanied by his sister Louise, he travelled by Trier, 
the Moselle, Coblenz, Nuremberg and Munich to Venice, 
Florence and Rome. 



To his Father 

Rome, October 15, 1871. — St. Peter's is disappointing. Some 
of the side aisles have been closed for the Council and have not 
been reopened. The exterior cannot compare in beauty with 
St. Paul's. The pictures in the Vatican are very good, but I 
never much admired the Transfiguration in engravings, and I 
have not been converted by seeing the original. I much prefer 
the Dresden Madonna. Domenichino's St. Jerome is exceedingly 
clever but tricky. Guido's Aurora is as beautiful as it may be 
conceived to be. Raphael's School of Athens and the Schools 
of Theology are also wonderfully fine. The Laocoon, the D3dng 
Gladiator, the Antinous, etc. come up fully to expectation, and 
the Gladiator surpasses it. Christian Rome is far from being 
so high in merit as ancient Rome. Perhaps the most interesting 
thing we have seen is San Clemente. 

The planning of summer journeys is a winter pastime ; 
but occasionally the programme was only determined on 
the eve of a holiday. 

To his sister Louise 

August 2, 1872. — I am very much puzzled where to go. I 
had thought of Canada and also of the Pyrenees, and my range 
is rather restricted by the novel circumstance that I must be 
back some time before my lectures begin. My notion is to go 
by steamer to Lisbon, Gibraltar and Cadiz, and then by another 
steamer in the Mediterranean, making my way up through 

The programme was faithfully carried out. Taking 
ship to Gibraltar via Lisbon and Cadiz,* he entered Spain 
from the south and was soon revelling in the delights of 

To his sister Margaret 

September i, 1872. — I sallied forth immediately to the 
Alhambra. The prospect was glorious. The hiU of the Al- 
hambra was behind, embowered in trees, poplars, figs, pome- 
granates, and then a ravine, on the other side of which is the 
Generalife with ancient cypresses and palms mingled with the 


other trees, and behind these hills rose other hills finally ending 
in the Sierra Nevada. Turning in the other direction Granada 
with its huge cathedral lay at my feet, and opposite on a smaller 
hill, the Moorish suburb. Granada owes not only the Alhambra 
but all its prosperity to the Moors. They tapped the waters 
that continually flow from the upper snows and, diverting their 
course into hundreds of different channels, provided for the 
irrigation of the whole of the hill sides and the great plain at 
the base of the city. The Spaniards would never have taken 
the trouble to establish this elaborate system ; but they have 
had the good sense to keep it up. The Court of Lions at the 
Crystal Palace is a faithful copy on a reduced scale of the original ; 
but it is only a chamber of the whole, and no art could reproduce 
the surrounding charm. You walk from hall to hall, all glorious 
within, blue and gold and crimson, green, orange and purple, 
and covered over and over with delicate curves and tracery, 
with narrow windows and perforated arches, through which you 
get glimpses of burning blue skies and green leaves, which tell 
you how hot it is outside, and all the while you hear the murmur 
of falling waters. A place of vast contentment. Deliciae 

In 1873 he sailed with his sister Louise for Canada, 
where his brother Mortimer had made his home, enjoyed 
some interesting conversations with the Governor General, 
Lord Dufferin, and paid a second visit to the United States, 
A year later he chose Germany for his autumn manoeuvres, 
and spent three quiet weeks at Brunswick working at the 
language, followed by his first visit to the capital. 

To his sister Margaret 

Berlin, September 28, 1874. — The city is full of big buildings, 
but there is not one which excites admiration. It is also full 
of monuments, to which additions are constantly made. The 
last is a glorification of the late war, and if a Frenchman saw 
it he would say, Sedan est venge. The BerHners themselves 
admit its stupendous ugliness. Berlin and the Berliners con- 
tinually remind me of New York and the Yankees. There is 
the same type of architecture and of people. I am sometimes 
surprised to hear people talk German instead of talking English 
through the nose. 



The French elegance of Sans Souci appealed to him far 
more than the massive Teutonism of the capital. Extending 
his tour eastwards he visited Posen and Breslau, returning 
home through Dresden and Cassel. 

The longest and most interesting journey of his Ufe was 
made in the autumn of 1875. Travelling by Venice and 
Brindisi he landed at Alexandria, where he stayed with 
his old friend and correspondent John Scott, who had for 
some years practised in the Consular Court and had recently 
been appointed EngUsh Appeal Judge in the International 
Court. Accompanied by his host he spent a fortnight at 
Cairo, where he cUmbed the Great Pyramid and dined with 
Nubar Pasha. A letter from Calcutta records his move- 
ments and observations. 

To J. H. Roby 

Calcutta, December 28, 1875. — I landed at Bombay on 
November 4. I stopped rather more than a fortnight in Egypt, 
and enjoyed my stay immensely. The Prince of Wales arrived 
four or five days after our steamer, and I saw the earlier part 
of the festivities in his honour. Then I fled and came to Allaha- 
bad without a break. The railway carriages here are arranged 
for long journeys so that travelling is easy for those like myself 
who can sleep easily, and I have accordingly done a good deal 
of travelling at night. Agra (including Futtehpur Sikkree), 
Delhi, the frontier country from Jhelum to Peshawar, Amritzar 
and Benares were the most interesting in themselves ; but others 
had associations. The ruins of the pomp of the Moguls are 
very fine ; but they look as old as the ruins of Rome, which are 
five times, or those of Egypt which are ten times, their antiquity. 
It has been a slight drawback to find ever5rsvhere workmen busy 
scraping, changing, renovating and painting by way of prepara- 
tion for the Prince. Fancy the first vision of the Taj being a 
gateway covered with a forest of bamboo scaifolding ! I am 
not sure that this visit will be in any way beneficial. The 
Europeans here (those at least who are not overburdened with 
the care and responsibility of being his hosts) are pleased with 
the entertainments that accompany the visit and flock in crowds 
to the balls and levees, and the Native Princes enjoy the oppor- 
tunity of wearing their best clothes and making a show of im- 
portance, though there have been sad heart-burnings among 


them in the way of precedence. The masses of the people 
beheved at first that when the Prince came they would have 
nothing to do but to present petitions to him and he would at 
once cause all their miseries to cease ; they would throw them- 
selves in his way as he rode in the streets and a word of his 
would set all things right. They are now better informed, and 
they turn out in large numbers to see fireworks and processions ; 
but the Prince is an accidental part of the show. The permanent 
result will apparently be nil. 

The country is at once easy and difficult to govern. It is 
easy to govern because, with the exception of a few hiU tribes, 
the habit of mind of the people is one of submissiveness and 
they are quite prepared to endure despotic command ; but on 
the other hand they are very ignorant, very prejudiced, very 
distrustful of change and very conservative, and if you try to 
improve things you find the task very difficult. Show a work- 
man a better and more expeditious way of doing his work and 
he may follow it as long as you are looking on ; but turn your 
back and he goes back to his old ways. AU this may of course 
be paralleled at home ; but the difficulty here is that the govern- 
ing race does not belong to the same world as the governed, and 
there is no intermediate class to interpret and popularise the 
good intentions of the English. All our regulations and improve- 
ments — road-making, canal-making, sanitary laws — cost money, 
and this evil is keenly felt. It is a characteristic fact that in 
order to provide for local expenditure octrois have been estab- 
lished in all the towns, because the people prefer them to rates. 
They do not see how the octroi works and willingly agree to 
have it instituted, while they would shew a camel-Hke temper 
of complaint of the smallest direct tax. Yet they are docile, 
they can learn, and if a man once gets their confidence they take 
his teaching quickly and there is no occasion for despair. The 
trains are crowded with third-class passengers, though they are 
huddled together like sheep. Kerosene oil is burnt far and wide, 
and I saw a tailor using a sewing machine in Lahore. Who shall 
say the obstinacy of the native is insuperable ? The difficulties 
in the way of prejudice and suspicion are quite as much on our 
side as the other. 

From this place I go by steamer to Madras and from Madras 
to Hyderabad and Poona. You would be delighted with the 
trees of the North-West — they grow to a great size and are 
almost always green and beautiful in shape. Of course I have 
had several new experiences. One was making the perambula- 
tion of a district or parish with a settiement ofi&cer. We were 


mounted on an elephant and in this way marched about the 
fields attended by the village officials, the zemindar and stray 
peasants who were cross-examined on crops, produce and prices, 
while the map we carried with us was verified to see that every 
patch, every tree, and every wall was exactly delineated on it. 
Another experience was two or three days spent at Kupparthalla, 
the capital of a small native state of that name, with Lepel 
Griffin, who is administrating the principality — the Rajah him- 
self being temporarily and perhaps permanently imbecile through 
drink ; so we have stepped in to take care of his dominions. I 
thus saw how a Native State is ruled. Going through the streets 
of Benares, visiting its temples and its bazaars under the guid- 
ance of a Brahmin, may be added as a third experience. Has 
not Max Miiller said it was the dream of his life to realise it ? 
But the Ganges does not efface the Thames. 

Though the autumn hoHday was the great event of the 
year, the Whitsun trip to Paris was no less keenly enjoyed. 
He loved to visit the Salon, to revisit the Louvre, to appraise 
the new purchases at the Luxembourg, to hear the latest 
drama of Sardou or Dumas /^s. Versailles and St. Germain, 
Fontainebleau and Chantilly, never lost their charm. There 
were debates to attend, statesmen new and old to interview, 
freetraders to strengthen in the faith. Last but not least, 
there was the incomparable Blowitz, the permanent am- 
bassador of Printing House Square to the French Republic. 
On one occasion, when Courtney was accompanied by Mr. 
Stebbing and Chenery was also making holiday in Paris, 
Blowitz asked them all to dejeuner to meet Nubar, and 
greeted them with the words, " The Times is in Paris." 

Courtney's growing prosperity meant not only longer 
holidays for himself but more of the sweets of life for the 
members of his family. Birthdays had always brought 
carefully chosen presents and affectionate letters, of which 
the following is a specimen. 

To his sister Margaret 

April 15, 1874. — Ma CHiRE bien Aim]ee — To-morrow is the 
great day, the birthday of birthdays, and we all hail it as 
becomes faithful brothers. I shall be in attendance at the 
House of Commons hearing the Budget and shall be probably 


dining with Delane afterwards as usual ; but the great circum- 
stance of the day shall not be forgot. Yesterday I bought a little 
cadeau, but was uncertain whether I should send it down or 
keep it till your arrival : James recommends the latter so it is 
to be kept to greet you with next week. I suppose we shall 
still see you on Friday night. As to your journey, the following 
is the sketch of what I should suggest. Folkestone, Boulogne, 
Abbeville, Amiens, Rouen, Beauvais, Paris, Soissons, Rheims, 
Laon, Amiens. I was down at Blackheath last Saturday, when 
they were in good spirits ; Mrs. Cairnes asking when you were 
coming up. Leslie Stephen had been invited, but had gone 
over to Paris for the Easter week. Delane spent his Easter 
in Paris and reported it looking charming. Au revoir, ma soeur 
cherie ; nous vous desirous beaucoup. Que vous ayez beaucoup 
des amies and encore plus de bonheur. Leonard. 

No sooner had his brothers and sister passed beyond the 
need of his quasi-parental care than the younger generation 
began to knock at the door. The recollections of his niece, 
Sarah Julyan, show that the services of the uncle were as 
ungrudgingly rendered as had been those of the elder 

" My earliest memories of Uncle Leonard are intimately 
connected with his Christmas visits to Penzance. Every 
member of the family looked forward eagerly to his arrival, 
perhaps Grandfather most of all ; to me there was even 
something mysterious — ^in the earhest days— in an uncle 
who came down from London by the night train and ap- 
peared on the scenes before breakfast. Then there were 
always appropriate presents for all, usually something for 
Grandfather which appealed to his artistic or literary tastes, 
perhaps books for others, and for myself a brooch, a locket, 
a book and once a beautiful pale heliotrope silk dress. I 
do not remember that he ever gave me anything in the 
nature of a toy or game but always something more enduring. 
Sometimes during the Christmas season I had a party, and 
Uncle Leonard helped to make it a happy gathering of my 
friends by joining — and with much spirit — in the games. 
I pass on to the time I spent at school in London from 1876 
to 1878. Uncle Leonard and Uncle William lived in Queen 


Anne's Gate, and I spent an occasional Saturday with them 
and regularly passed my half-term holiday there, arriving 
before dinner on Friday and being taken back on the follow- 
ing Monday evening. These short stays were always 
looked forward to with pleasure and thoroughly enjoyed as 
they flew by. Two Saturday excursions stand out promin- 
ently, one to Epping Forest, the other across Epsom Downs 
to Leith Hill. After Uncle Leonard's late breakfast — he 
was engaged nightly at the Times office — and my early 
lunch, we set out, taking train to some convenient starting- 
point and then beginning a long tramp, which took us all 
the afternoon, and ended at some inn, where we had an 
early dinner and then came back by train." 

Courtney's joyous personahty and warmth of heart made 
him a favourite with children outside his family circle. His 
friendship with John Scott and his love of Boswell formed 
links with Birkbeck Hill, who kept a school at Tottenham, 
which was near enough for an afternoon visit, Mrs. Crump, 
the editor of her father's letters, has kindly contributed her 
recollections of the Times thunderer in holiday mood. 

" I cannot date my early memories of Lord Courtney 
with any precision. The first clear picture in my mind 
must be placed early in the 'seventies. I see very clearly 
Bruce Castle set in stretches of smooth lawn and beds of 
briUiant geranium. The old house shows its brick through 
the climbing roses in full flower. Father and Mother are 
out on the lawn and we — ^perhaps all seven of us — are 
pervading all about, one a little boy, with black hair and 
solemn yet vivid brown eyes, long years ago dead. Along 
the drive come my Uncle John Scott, home from Egypt 
for the summer months, and with him his friend Courtney 
in brown suit and buff Unen waistcoat. How clearly I can 
see him and the curiously bright eyes under the thick eye- 
brows, and the whimsical smile as we crowd round. ' Why, 
he's all brown,' says the little boy. ' He's brown-eyed 
Mr. Courtney.' It was obviously a link with himself in the 
child's mind, and from that day for a long time it was 


' brown-eyed Mr. Courtney ' with us children ; a playmate 
we could romp with, maybe a bit outrageously on our part, 
but then he could play and he could not tease. That quality 
marked him out in my mind, a little girl with often more 
high spirits than manners and yet a keen sensitiveness when 
the moment of excitement passed. 

" The second memory is rather of my ears than of my 
eyes, though I see too a scene in all its details. It is in the 
hall of Bruce Castle, a square hall with oak stair and wide 
banisters and in the hall at the foot of the stairs a Sheraton 
sideboard. Two boys are astride on the wide banister and 
I sit careless on the sideboard. The manservant and a maid 
pass to and fro and the three bad children make grabs at 
the dishes, though they are not bad enough to play pirate 
till after the guests in the dining-room beyond have eaten. 
Dinners I suppose were mainly matters of business in my 
father's schoolmaster Ufe ; an3rway they were solemn and 
I know bored Father and Mother ahke. But this time 
eager talk and quite child-Uke shouts of laughter reached us 
every time the door opened. Quite an original sort of 
dinner party obviously, and it was strange enough to live 
on in my memory. I do not know who the guests aU were, 
but I know Mr. Courtney was one. 

" The third memory is wholly and gloriously ridiculous, 
belonging to '79 or '80. My Uncle John Scott and Mr. 
Courtney came down to our new home in Berkshire, as glad 
I expect to escape from London in June for a night as my 
Father and Mother were to welcome old friends in what 
was something of a country wilderness to them. ' Now 
then, Courtney,' says my uncle, ' we're all going to do as 
we did in the train coming from Cairo to Alexandria. There 

was and there (I forget names but I think they 

were fellow judges in the International Court), and we 
thought we'd welcome the guard. It's a giant sneeze. 
Courtney you take tcha, I'm tche, Maurice, Norman, Lucy 
tchi ! tcho ! tchu ! Now then, are you ready ? Go ! ' 
Mother looks a scrap startled at the terrific burst. Brown- 
eyed Walter shares in with ' brown-eyed Mr. Courtney,' 
We all sneeze and shout with laughter. 


" The last memoHy is the happiest of all. Mr. Courtney 
was I think quite lately married and he was to bring Mrs. 
Courtney to visit us. I don't think my parents had ever 
met her. Any way I know my mother was anxious that 
everything should be ' very nice/ and it was not so easy 
in our small and full house and with no great help in the 
way of service. So I recall a good deal of preparation and 
some httle anxiety. Then they arrived. On Sunday 
afternoon we went a long ramble, and all the way we grew 
madder and madder. I think some of our joy arose from 
our usual mood when Mr. Courtney came among us, some 
I think was pure pleasure in finding that we could stiU 
prank though there was a Mrs. Courtney." 

A third vignette is supplied by Mr. Arthur Roby. 
" Down to 1875, when we left London, there are constant 
entries in my father's diaries of Lord Courtney lunching 
and dining with my people and of walks and drives they 
took with him and of dinners he gave my father at the 
Reform Club or at the Statistical Society, or to both my 
parents at the Ship at Greenwich or elsewhere. Here are 
some instances. April 22, 1871. — ' Dined with Courtney 
at the Reform Club. Present Fawcett, Westlake, Caimes, 
Rigby, Jenkins and Ebel, Berlin Correspondent of the 
Times.' July 22-26, 1875. — ' Courtney took Westlake and 
ourselves on the Thames.' 1876, July 21-5. — ' At Court- 
ney's invitation we rowed from Oxford to Teddington ; 
the Westlakes with us.' Lord Courtney's laugh, which was 
always so hearty, was the passport to our affection for him 
as children. We were profoundly impressed with the fact 
that he had always an answer ready for all our questions, 
£ind awed by the number of topics he discussed with our 
parents. But, unlike many of my father's friends who were 
not nearly so able, we were never the least in awe of Mr. 
Courtney himself. If we were romping when he came, he 
romped too. We rejoiced to go walks and drives with him 
or to the Zoo, and we were allowed to and did treat him as 
a young uncle, and when he came to dinner parties we 
caught him on the stairs. He seemed to understand children. 


^and so was never solemn to them or afraid of losing caste 
by coming down to their level in fun and frolic. Times 
beyond number we used to go to his rooms in Queen Anne's 
Gate to get from him some tickets or other source of pleasure 
he had for us ; and whenever he came to see my parents, a 
visit to our nursery or schoolroom was never forgotten. 
In later years it was to him I used to owe visits to the House 
with introductions to great men like Lord Morley, who 
might also be sitting in the Strangers' GaUery. No senior 
could be so kind to a junior as he was, his great abiUty and 
knowledge giving itself so lavishly and simply to the enter- 
tainment of those who had nothing they could give him 
in return except their gratitude and affection." 

While journalism was his main occupation and the 
principal source of his livelihood, Courtney found time to 
continue the economic studies to which he had turned on 
leaving Cambridge. In 1864 he joined the Statistical 
Society, of which he was to be elected President thirty years 
later, and it was before this body that he read in 1868 a 
massive dissertation, " On the Finances of the United 
States, 1861-67," ^ which may stiU be consulted as a record 
of financial errors committed under the stress of a prolonged 
conflict, Courtney's competence as an economist was 
recognised by his election to the PoUtical Economy Club 
in 1869, after having attended two of its meetings in 1866 
as Fawcett's guest. Since its foundation in 1821 by Ricardo 
the Club had steadily grown in influence, enhsting not only 
every professional student of the dismal science but states- 
men, pubhcists and men of letters. Among the sages who v 
gathered round the dinner-table on Friday evenings Mill 
was facile princeps ; but debates which were attended by 
Caimes, Thornton and Newmarch, Cliffe Leslie and Thorold 
Rogers, Jevons and Fawcett, Bagehot and Greg, Sidgwick 
and Braniwell, Lowe, Dilke and Goschen, Lord Overstone 
and Sir John Lubbock, Frederic Harrison and John Morley, 
Farrer and Giffen, VilUers and Louis Mallet, naturally 
reached a high level of knowledge and argument. To join 

* Journal of the Statistical Society, xxxi. 164-221. 


such a circle was a liberal education for a young man, and 
for the half century which followed his election Courtney 
was one of the most regular attendants as well as one of the 
weightiest debaters. He was chosen Secretary in 1873, 
Giffen being appointed Joint Secretary in 1881. " Even 
then," writes Frederic Harrison of his own election in 1876, 
" Leonard Courtney was recognised as the heir of Mill's 
economic authority," ^ "It has been my high privilege 
for a good many years to be a member of the PoUtical 
Economy Club," he declared in 1888. " We meet together 
once a month during the season. There are forty-five 
ordinary members, and we have some honorary members, 
for instance, members who become Cabinet Ministers — 
almost every Chancellor of the Exchequer has been a 
member of the Club — and holders of professorial chairs. 
We sit down on an average perhaps a score. We do not 
stand up. The man who introduces a subject explains it 
for some half an hour, and then it is carried from person to 
person. That is the quiet business-like way of proceeding. 
I would recommend you to avoid all pubUcity if you would 
pursue a serious discussion of any economic question." ^ 

Courtney's wide range of knowledge was recognised by 
his appointment as examiner in Hterature and history for 
the Indian Civil Service in 1867-68, and in constitutional 
history in the University of London in 1872-75. He wrote 
the important article on " Banking " for the Ninth Edition of 
the Encyclopaedia Britannica, and in 1872 he obtained the 
Chair of Pohtical Economy in the University of London, 
The post was of less distinction than that which he had 
sought at Cambridge, but its duties could be combined 
with his work on the Times. He held the Chair for three 
years, resigning it when he started on his voyage to India. 
He was so well acquainted with the classics of his science 
that the preparation of his course made no very exacting 
demands on his time. The Historical School, which under 
the leadership of Roscher was beginning to dominate 

1 Autobiographic Memoirs, ii. 92-3. 

* From an Address on the Occupation of Land to the Political Economy 
Circle of the National Liberal Club. 


Germany, had not yet struck root in England, and the new 
Professor was content to expound the doctrines of Adam 
Smith and Ricardo, Mill and Caimes. His subject for the 
first year was the Principles of PoUtical Economy, for the 
second. Wages, and for the third. Taxation.^ 

To his sister Louise 

November 13, 1874. — I was very busy about my evening 
lecture yesterday, so that I could not conveniently write. I 
have now delivered three, or a fourth of the course. The class 
is smaller than it was last year, and there are only two ladies 
attending, which is a great falling off. The number altogether 
is about the same as it was two years ago. 

Following the example of his colleagues Croom Robertson 
and Carey Foster, the Professor of Political Economy invited 
women to attend his classes. " I still remember what great 
gratitude we all felt to such a pioneer on women's behalf," 
writes Mrs. Hancock. " There were only a few girls among 
a large class of men ; and many were the prophecies that 
we should meet with rudeness and discourtesy. But I 
found them very poUte, and many were the offers to sharpen 
my pencil and lend me notes." 

Courtney beheved not only that political economy was 
a science, but that it afforded invaluable guidance in the 
conduct of public affairs. He scornfully repudiated the 
doctrine that the State could make men happy and prosper- 
ous, preferring to emphasise the danger to personal indepen- 
dence and responsibihty from its well-meant attentions. 
He rebuked the facile optimism which forgot the hmits 
within which men and nations are compelled by natural 
laws to work out their destiny. If his poUtical teaching 
was the gospel of Independence, his economic message was 
the gospel of Self-Help. In both domains he raised the 
standard of a lofty and almost stoical individuahsm, and 
kept it proudly flying tiU the day of his death. Two lectures 
deUvered to the Mechanics' Institute at Pl5anouth in the 
later 'seventies reveal his economic convictions and appre- 

^ Information kindly supplied by the Secretary of University College. 


hensions at the time of his entry into political life. In the 
first, " The Migration of Centres of Industrial Energy," ^ 
he discussed the perplexing problem whether the hfe of 
nations is subject to the same limitations as the Ufe of men, 
in other words whether the stock of national vitaUty in- 
evitably becomes exhausted. The rise and fall of empires 
seems to indicate some such biological law ; but we pass 
beyond the region of hj^othesis in tracing the cycles of 
industrial growth and decay. A rapid survey of the com- 
mercial fortunes of mediaeval Italy, Flanders, Holland and 
England exhibits industry passing from nation to nation, 
and proves that in each case supremacy rests upon transi- 
tory conditions. Within our own country the centre of 
industry shifts from district to district, and the tide of 
emigration prepares us for a large transfer of industrial 
energy from our own to other lands. If our coal deposits 
are as limited as Professor Jevons calculates, we must 
prepare ourselves for a shrinkage of industry and a sterner 
struggle for existence. " I trust," he concludes, " that the 
spirit of wisdom may lead this nation through the trials in 
store for it ; and I say this the more fervently because I 
cannot disguise from myself the conviction that this century 
can scarcely pass away without some of them being experi- 
enced." " The facts are for the greater part well known," 
wrote Professor Marshall in 1918, " but it is a monumental 
array of warnings that a nation with but narrow natural 
resources must not rely in ease on the memories of the past." 
The second address, entitled " A Fair Day's Wages for a 
Fair Day's Work," ^ analyses the meaning of a fair-sounding 
but ambiguous phrase. " A fair day's wages " means a 
fair amount of what money will buy, and varies with prices 
and with customary wants. Chinese and English labourers, 
for instance, working in the same town and receiving 
different pay, may both obtain a fair wage. " A fair day's 
work " is a much simpler conception, merely involving that 
the work must be useful and conscientiously performed. 
Passing further afield the lecturer explodes the vulgar errors 

^ Published in the Fortnightly Review, December 1878. 
* Published in the Fortnightly Review, Maxch 1879. 


that workmen benefit by " making " work, and suffer by 
imports from abroad. The real danger to British industry 
arises from much deeper causes. Resuming the thread of 
his previous discourse, he warns his hearers of the possible 
shrinkage of our natural resources, and bids them prepare 
for recurring depressions and growing emigration. The 
population that can be sustained at any given time is 
limited by a variety of causes, some of which are wholly 
or partially beyond our control. The address closes on a 
note of rebuke to the irresponsible complacency of his 
contemporaries. " Forty years ago people pursued,^ their 
thought to its conclusion, however disagreeable it might 
be. You might as well hope to build a house in disregard 
of the law of gravitation as to secure social well-being in a 
community where the principle of population is treated as 
of no account. To preach personal or class responsibility 
is not a passport to favours, and a democratic franchise 
exposes public men to increasing temptation to suppress 
unpopular truths. Much yet remains to be done to improve 
the condition of the people by the reform of our laws, above 
all those relating to land ; but if all that could be suggested 
were accomplished, it would still remain with the people 
themselves to determine their own condition." ^ 

Courtney's connection with the Times never debarred 
him from active co-operation with men of more advanced 
views than Delane. When Fawcett entered Parliament in 
1865 he founded a Radical group, of which Mill was the 
principal ornament.^ The group developed into a Club in 
1870, with Dilke, who had entered Parliament in 1868, as 
Secretary. Among the members were Mill, Hare, Fawcett^ 
Cairnes, John Morley, Lord Edmund Fitzmaurice, Courtney,. 
Leslie Stephen, Henry Sidgwick, Torrens and Frank Hill, 
the editor of the Daily News. From this platform Mill 
propounded in 1870 his views on land, and at the inaugural 
public meeting of the Land Tenure Association in 1870 Sir 
Charles for the first time promulgated the doctrine of the 

^ " Much has been learnt since he wrote," writes Professor Marshall ; 
" but nearly every one may still profit by some shrewd observation." 
* L. Stephen, Life of Fawcett, p. 286. 


" unearned increment." Not long after its foundation, in 
Dilke's words, " it dropped very much into the hands of 
Fawcett, Fitzmaurice and myself." ^ In 1880 Dilke took 
office and was succeeded in the Secretaryship by his brother 
Ashton, with whose death in 1883 it came to an end. The 
Club exerted a considerable influence in the 'seventies 
owing to the conspicuous abiUties of some of its members, 
and helped to prepare the transformation of a predominantly 
Whig party into an army of Liberals and Radicals. " I 
first met Mr. Courtney," writes Lord Fitzmaurice, " through 
Mr. Fawcett and other members of the Radical Club, which 
consisted of Members of ParUament and non-members in 
about equal proportions. The Club as a rule dined in 
London, and when we broke up I often used to walk with 
Courtney to Westminster Bridge. Thence, in those early 
days, he used to make his way to Blackfriars, to the Times 
office. I remember that what immediately struck me most 
about him was his immense strength, both mental and 
physical, which nothing seemed able to tire, and his great 
independence of judgment, in which he resembled Mr. 
Fawcett. All his friends were naturally very anxious to 
see him in Parhament, and expected great things of him." 

Both in the Radical Club and the PoUtical Economy 
Club Courtney was thrown into frequent contact with 
Fawcett, whose career, no less than opinions, had been in 
many respects similar to his own. The elder Fawcett, hke 
the elder Courtney, would never have thought of sending 
his son to the University ; but the boy's mathematical 
abiUties were so marked that the Dean of Sahsbury solemnly 
pronounced that he ought to go to Cambridge. Peterhouse 
was chosen as a coUege where Fellowships were tenable by 
la5nnen, and Fawcett entered in 1852, a year after Courtney, 
rising, Uke him, from a " pensioner " to a " scholar." He 
was seventh wrangler in 1856, and in the same year was 
elected FeUow of Trinity Hall, whither he had migrated 
when he found too many competitors at Peterhouse. Though 
he read diligently he knew that he had no chance of being 
Senior Wrangler, and therefore felt at Hberty to give free 

* Gwynn ajod Tuckwell, Life oj Sir Charles Dilke, i. 160. 


rein to his passion for politics. He spoke frequently at the 
Union, where he wrestled with such budding orators as 
Montagu Butler, John Gorst and Gully. Having resolved 
as a boy that he would one day enter Parliament he migrated 
to London after taking his degree, and read for the Bar, 
paying frequent visits to the House of Commons. Return- 
ing to Cambridge two years later after losing his sight, his 
unflagging activity soon made him a prominent figure in 
the University and beyond. His election to the Chair of 
PoUtical Economy in 1863 was the reward of his Manual 
and of his friendship with Mill. Returned to Parliament 
as Member for Brighton in 1865 he rapidly won the ear of 
the House, and established his position as an Independent 

Courtney and Fawcett had never met as undergraduates, 
and they were probably unknown to each other tiU they 
stood as rival candidates for the Professorship. It was not 
till the one was in Parliament and the other anchored in 
Printing House Square that their intimacy began ; but it 
quickly ripened into close and fruitful association. Both 
were disciples of Mill and friends of Cairnes. Both were 
ardent champions of minority representation. Both had 
been uncompromising supporters of the cause of the North 
in the American Civil War. Both were professional students 
of political economy, finance and statistics. Both were 
Philosophic Radicals, pledged to laissez-faire, free trade, 
religious liberty, and women's suffrage. Finally, both were 
of the Cambridge school, interpreting life in terms of prose, 
not poetry, loving precise statement and clear thinking, 
and caring nothing for theology and metaphysics. If 
Cairnes was Courtney's first intimate friend among the 
leaders of thought, Fawcett was his first ally among men of 
action ; and the three men formed a working alliance which 
was not without influence on EngUsh history. 

Cairnes had left Galway on his appointment to the Chair 
of Political Economy at University College, London ; but 
an accident to his leg brought on a disease which slowly 
crippled him, compelled him to withdraw from academic 
work and finally killed him. He pitched his tent at Black- 


heath, partly in order to be a neighbour of Mill, who would 
walk beside his bath-chair so long as he was well enough to 
go out. When he became a hopeless invalid, unable to 
stand or even to move, Fawcett and Courtney paid frequent 
visits to his house, where the triumvirate discussed not only 
problems of poUtical economy, but every phase of public 
affairs. His mind was unaffected, and his authority steadily 
increased. After the death of Mill in 1873 few would have 
challenged Fawcett 's tribute to Cairnes as " the leading 
economist of the day, second only in power, originality and 
clearness of expression to his friend and master." " In the 
midst of aU engagements," writes LesUe Stephen, " Fawcett 
was constantly running down to his friend's house, cheering 
him by his conversation, doing all he could to spread his 
reputation, encouraging him to collect and repubhsh his 
essays, bringing down any one whom he thought likely to 
be an amusing companion, and taking counsel with him on 
the poUtical measures in which they were both interested. 
Cairnes's vigorous intellect made the congenial alliance 
profitable to both parties. During Fawcett's Parliamentary 
career Cairnes, so long as he lived, was one of his most 
intimate advisers, whilst Leonard Courtney made a third 
in their friendly union." ^ 

The triple alhance co-operated most effectively in 
defeating the Irish University Bill of 1873. At Galway 
Cairnes had imbibed an undying hostility to the claim of 
the Roman Church to control education in Ireland, and, 
though in Fawcett's words " a thorough Liberal," he 
believed that the defeat of Gladstone would be a lesser evil 
than the surrender of higher education to an Ultramontane 
priesthood. In 1S66, in an article on " The Irish University," 
he had stoutly defended mixed education, and expressed a 
wish for the retention of the Queen's Colleges even if it was 
determined to create a " mediaeval University." When 
the attempt was renewed towards the close of Gladstone's 
first Ministry he returned to the charge in an article entitled 
" The Irish University Question." ^ The BiU was stoutly 

1 Fawcett's Life, pp. 200-201. 
• Both reprinted in his Political Essays, 1873. 


contested by Fawcett in Parliament, who launched the 
thunderbolts forged in the arsenal at Blackheath. The 
third member of the triumvirate, entrenched in Printing 
House Square, contributed his share to the defeat of the 
measure, and to the subsequent passage of Fawcett's Bill 
for the abolition of tests in Trinity College, Dublin. 

Though they could scarcely desire his cruel sufferings to 
be prolonged, Caimes's death was a blow to his friends, who 
paid warm tributes to his memory. "No man was better 
informed than he of the course of poUtical events," wrote 
Fawcett in the Fortnightly Review} " and no one was a 
safer guide as a practical politician. He possessed charm, 
vivacity and humour in conjunction that made all his 
friends look forward to their visits to him as one of their 
greatest pleasures. When any of his friends heard a good 
story probably the first thing they thought of was, ' How 
Caimes wiU enjoy it ! ' It used to be proverbial among us 
that, laughing with him over some joke or hearing him tell 
some amusing story, we often lingered so long that we 
generally had to run to the station and not unfrequently 
missed the last train." 

Courtney had enjoyed his visits as much as Fawcett, 
and marvelled at the contrast between the cheerful serenity 
and the physical sufferings of their host. 

To his sister Louise 

August 1872. — On Sunday I went down to see Caimes, whom 
I had not seen for a fortnight. He was looking terribly ill. 
His eyes were sunk and his hands thinner than ever. I shall 
try to go down again next Sunday. 

The fine obituary notice in the Times was from his pen.^ 
" He was the most powerful and exact of our recent Political 
Economists. The colunms of a daily journal are lU-fitted 
to receive the impressions of social intercourse ; and the 
memorials of his admirable humour and of conversational 
gifts, at once charming and instructive, must be preserved 
for his family and friends. They will treasure the memory 

* August 1875. 2 July 9_ 1875. 



of a private life of rare elevation, and the few who have been 
privileged to resort to his suburban home wUl long miss the 
interchange of thought and feeling which made it so attrac- 
tive." He praises his Leading Principles as good hard 
reading, to be studied not skimmed, and better understood 
after several readings than after one. " He was the unseen 
centre of the operations that exposed the character of the 
University Bill in 1873 and destroyed it, for he had seen 
the success of united education at Galway. Its strongest 
opponents in Parhament and the Press were inspired by his 
knowledge and counsel." ^ 

On the eve of his entering ParUament in 1876 Courtney 
set forth his views on the manufacture, expression and 
authority of public opinion in an article entitled " PoUtical 
Machinery and PoHtical Life," pubUshed in the July number 
of the Fortnightly Review. The election of 1874, he begins, 
showed the electorate to be opposed to the retention of 
Gladstone, but gave httle if any indication what measures 
it desired. In any case it cannot as a rule pronounce a 
verdict on more than one question at a time. Moreover, 
pubHc opinion, or the voice of the majority, if we closely 
scrutinise the methods of its manufacture, ought to carry 
but Httle weight. Most voters take their opinions ready- 
made from their landlord, their church, or the leader of 
their party ; and independent thinking is as rare among 
candidates as among constituents. " The first condition 
of success is that each candidate shall be clearly identified 
with the poUcy of the party he seeks to attract. He must 
support the Ministry unreservedly, or he must go with the 
Opposition. But the balance of victory constantly rests 
with those electors who are not enrolled under either banner. 
The hovering and doubtful voters are far from always 
being venal. They are cautious, lukewarm, cold-blooded 
creatures, sceptical of professions, and in some instances 
disdainful of political hfe. Whoever tries to win them 
must strive to take the colour out of his opinions. He soon 
perceives the advantages of practising an economy of revela- 

^ Courtney was Cairnes's executor, and was for years the friend and 
adviser of his widow. 


tion ; but this is extremely difficult except where there is 
nothing to reveal. All the influences which prevail among 
us to repress the development of opinion are brought into 
strongest operation at the time of a general election. The 
best candidate is the man who is not troubled with thoughts 
of anything beyond the programme of his party. The 
conditions thus limiting the choice of candidates necessarily 
affect the character of the House of Commons, and tend to 
make it a chamber of mediocrity. There are persons who 
regard this result with satisfaction. They tell us that what 
is wanted in the Legislature is not a multiplication of 
Mr. Burke but of men who are content to say ditto to Mr. 
Burke. I am, however, prepared to uphold the paradox 
that the most important function of the House of Commons 
is not that of legislation but of discussion." Parliament 
should be the educator ; for the press tends to follow its 
lead, popularising the ideas that have found a foothold 
within its walls. 

What is the remedy for this artificial stimulation of 
mediocrity, this systematic sterilisation of originality ? In 
answering the question the author reveals the purpose for 
which the article was written. " I look for something like 
a regeneration of pohtical hfe through the gradual trans- 
formation of our electoral system according to the prin- 
ciples of Mr. Hare. Instead of compelUng voters to bring 
themselves down to a common level in the hope of forming 
part of a majority, I would allow them to associate together 
freely according to their opinions in groups, obtaining 
representatives according to their numbers. The immediate 
adoption of Mr. Hare's system I neither expect nor desire ; 
but its introduction within the limited areas of our great 
towns and more populous counties may be anticipated 
without extravagance of thought in the lifetime of the 
new generation. Our present system operates to Hmit the 
quantity and worsen the quality of life in every division. 
Why should we not adopt the "regime of liberty instead of 
the regime of constriction ? If a voter is to have the power 
to which he is entitled he must have freedom of choice ; 
and he can only have freedom of choice when the single- 


member constituency disappears. If it is urged that the 
representation of minorities may cheat the majority of its 
rightful power, the answer is that with single-member con- 
stituencies a majority in the Legislature may be returned 
by a minority in the country. The majority may vote 
down minorities if they will first hear what they have to 
say. The demand for the extension of household suffrage 
to the counties will not long be resisted, and its concession 
must be accompanied by a redistribution of electoral power. 
Any one who examines the institutions about us by the 
Hght of the principles and thoughts that daily gain force 
among men must find httle comfort or trust in their per- 
manence. We are compassed about with so much that 
must pass away, we struggle to the injury of our freedom 
and health under the weight of so much that is dead and 
must be shuffled off ; and yet the strain and the labour 
of their removal threaten to be so great that we are often 
tempted to think that without a revolution the changes 
that are inevitable cannot be accomplished. The trans- 
formation of our representative system appears to me to 
open up a way to the accompHshment of the changes we fore- 
see without resort to passion and to violence. If we make 
the governing assembly a mirror of the life of the people, 
the leaven of change wiU work gradually in the one as in 
the other." 

Courtney had often expressed these views in the Times 
or in the Radical Club ; but they appeared for the first 
time above his signature in this article, which drew a warm 
commendation from the Editor. 

From John Morley 

June 22, 1876. — Your article interests me enormously — 
though my mind halts this side of your conclusion. The first 
dozen pages strike me as masterly. The silently directing 
power of Parliament over public opinion has never been so set 
forth — to the best of my knowledge. I will not trouble you 
with a manuscript discussion, because I hope to examine your 
position in print before many weeks are over. At this moment 
I am not quite sure where the point of divergence is exactly 


to be found. You make the plan more persuasive than usual, 
partly because you write like a practical politician — which Mill 
and Hare do not. Chamberlain has been very unwell ; he is 
now refreshing his brain at Llangollen in preparation for Tuesday's 
meeting. If Horsman would only be kind enough to vacate 
Liskeard, then things would happen that would make me think 
better of the House of Commons than I do now. However, all 
in good time, I suppose, and one at once. 

The two men had come to London in the later 'fifties 
to seek their fortune, but it was not tiU several years later 
that they formed the friendship that lasted unbroken for 
nearly half a century. Their common veneration for Mill, 
their common friendship for Caimes and Fawcett, LesUe 
Stephen and Frederic Harrison and many another standard- 
bearer in the army of progress, their individualism and their 
hatred of ImperiaHsm drew them together. The younger 
man declined to enlist under the banner of Proportional 
Representation ; but on other issues they were agreed, 
and Courtney was a welcome recruit to the band of advanced 
thinkers who, under the guidance of its brilliant editor, 
made the Fortnightly a cardinal factor in the poUtical and 
intellectual education of the third quarter of the century. 
Modem radicalism as a Parliamentary force was bom in 
the 'sixties and 'seventies when Fawcett and Dilke, Chamber- 
lain and Morley, Trevelyan and Wilfrid Lawson declared 
war on the Whigs ; and Courtney, though temperamentally 
somewhat more conservative, supported his friends in most 
of their enterprises and was regarded by them as a member 
of the General Staff. " At his first dinner with me in 
London," writes Lord Morley in recording his early friend- 
ship with Chamberlain, " I made him acquainted with three 
men of note, Fawcett, Courtney and Harrison." ^ The date 
is not given ; but as the historic partnership began in 1873 
it can hardly have been later than 1874. Chamberlain, 
however, never became an intimate friend like Fawcett and 
Morley; for the founder of the caucus was separated by 
a deep gulf from the sworn foe of machine politics. The 
two men were destined to enter ParKament in the same 

^ Recollections, i. 157. 


year, to co-operate first in the triumph and then in the 
defeat of Gladstonian ideas, and finally to lead the opposing 
armies which wrestled for the soul of England at the close 
of the nineteenth century. 

By the middle of the 'seventies Courtney had become a 
famihar figure not only in Liberal circles but in the poUtical 
and social hfe of London ; and his experiences were duly 
recorded in frequent letters to Penzance. 

To his sister Margaret 

July 20, 1876. — I dined yesterday at Lord Harrowby's ; the 
dinner was very good, the people pleasant, and powdered foot- 
men moved about the room in almost too great numbers. Old 
Lord Harrowby wore his star and ribbon of the Garter, and he 
reminded me after dinner that it was at a Cabinet dinner in the 
same house in his father's time that the Cato Street conspiracy 
proposed to blow up the Ministry ; also that the Waterloo dis- 
patches were brought by Lord Percy and read from the top of 
the stairs to people pouring into the hall. The Chiswick party 
went off very well. We passed through the hall of the cottage 
out to the garden on the other side where the Prince and Princess 
stood under a shady tree and the guests bowed on being pre- 
sented and passed on. Among the people I saw and had talks 
with were Cardinal Manning, who introduced me to Archbishop 
Howard, KnoUys, the Prince's secretary, Charley Beresford, 
Russell, Oliphant, Vernon Harcourt, Salar Jung, Lord Napier 
of Magdala, the Mallets, Lord Houghton and daughter, Woolner, 
Sir Bartle Frere, Birdwood of the Indian Museum, etc. The 
Morocco Ambassadors were there, making a very fine show. 

It was generally expected that Courtney would enter 
Parliament as soon as opportimity arose ; and it was 
universally agreed that he possessed unusual quaUfications 
for pubHc hfe. His wide knowledge and grasp of detail, 
his travels and his academic studies, his long apprenticeship 
under Delane, above all his powerful mind and independent 
character marked him out for a leading part on the stage 
which he had so often surveyed from the gallery with 
critical eye and tinghng pulse. 



" When in 1874 Leonard first contested Liskeard," writes 
his sister Mrs, Oliver, " his effort to enter Parliament 
seemed a matter of course. It was not that I can recollect 
ever hearing him talk of his intention to become a member 
of the House of Commons ; but one knew that his work, 
his study of political questions and institutions, his travels, 
his incHnations all tended in that direction. Devoted to 
his native county it was natural that he should desire to 
be one of its members." 

The Gladstone Government had been tripped up in 1873 
on its Irish University scheme, but had recovered its breath 
and still possessed a working majority. Though its energies 
were exhausted, and DisraeU was not without justification 
in describing the occupants of the Treasury Bench as a row 
of extinct volcanoes, the country was startled in the follow- 
ing year by the news that the Prime Minister had dissolved 
Parliament. The Cornish seats were already provided with 
Liberal champions ; but at the last moment the candidate 
for Liskeard accepted an offer to contest Leicester, and left 
a vacancy that required to be promptly filled. How 
Courtney flung himself into the breach was related by him 
to his constituents several years later. " Though I was 
practically unknown in Liskeard, Liskeard was not unknown 
to me. From boyhood it had been to me full of interest. 
I could remember several of the contests in which Charles 
BuUer was a candidate. Later on I heard of all that he 
had done in London and what hopes were buried with him 



in his premature tomb. It was therefore with no ordinary 
feeling of emotion that the possibility of coming to Lis- 
keard seemed to open up. It was in a small room in the 
office of the Times, about half-past one in the morning, 
when I was engaged in writing a leading article, that one 
of the boys who would come in from time to time bringing 
' flimsy ' containing new inteUigence, brought in a message 
stating that Mr. McArthur had retired from Liskeard. I 
went on writing, and put the information aside till I had 
finished. Then I began to think. Shall I go down there ? 
I left the office about 2.30 and walked along the Embank- 
ment to the Temple, and then I determined I would come 
down. I went back to my esteemed friend Mr. Delane and 
told him my decision. The following day, having opened 
up communication with Liskeard, I telegraphed, ' I will come 
down by mail train to-night,' " 

In the rush of an unexpected General Election indivi- 
duals are lost in the crowd ; but the Spectator, in deploring 
the absence of able candidates, directed the attention of its 
readers to one marked exception. " Mr. Leonard Courtney 
has had the courage to beard Mr. Horsman in Liskeard. 
Though Uttle known out of London he is known in it as a 
man who, if he can hit the temper of the House of Commons, 
will rise fast and far." There seemed, however, to be 
httle more than a sporting chance, for he was unknown in 
the constituency, and he had only ten days allowed him to 
woo the electors. The sitting member elegantly described 
his antagonist as " the Times reporter," and complained 
that he had arrived in the borough hke a thief in the night ; 
but he was glad to be opposed by a new-comer, and the 
veteran campaigner looked forward to an easy victory. 

Edward Horsman, a miniature Roebuck, was a prominent 
if eccentric ParUamentary figure for forty years. ^ He had 
held office as Chief Secretary for Ireland under Palmerston 
from 1855 to 1857, resigning it on the ground that there 
was " not enough work to be done," and preferring in 
future the career of a free lance. He joined Lowe in opposi- 
tion to the Reform Bill of 1866, and indeed Bright ascribed 

^ See Sir Henry Lucy, Men and Manner in Parliament, pp. 123-7. 


Lowe's hostility to his influence. He was depicted retiring 
" into what may be called his poHtical Cave of Adullam, to 
which he invited every one who was in distress and every 
one who was discontented." Bright's phrase made its 
fortune, though nobody now remembers the name of the 
first Adullamite. He declared himself to be "in favour 
of steady but not precipitate progress " ; but his notion 
of precipitancy may be judged by the fact that he opposed 
every extension of the franchise during his long member- 
ship of the House. He drifted ever further away from his 
party, and in 1869, when he stood for Liskeard, he was 
unsuccessfully opposed by an orthodox follower of Glad- 
stone, to whom he was a thorn in the flesh throughout the 
ParHament of 1868. At the next election he was opposed 
by Courtney, but held the seat by 334 votes to 329. The 
disappointment was not very severe, as the pendulum 
swung to the Conservative side throughout the country; 
and the Liberal candidate was, in his own words, " im- 
known, unexpected, uninvited," 

Courtney expected victory neither for himself nor for 
his party. Its leader had gone to the country without a 
programme, and offered no particular inducement to re- 
formers to rally to his support. Under the circumstances the 
Liskeard figures were a moral triumph, and his friends shared 
his conviction that the next appeal would not be in vain. 

From John Scott 

Alexandria, March 4. — Need I say I was very sorry the 
Liskeard people just failed to do the country good service ? 
It is sad to think that the addition of three men of sense would 
have made the difference. However your turn will come, and 
I shall still be able to drink to the health of my friend the member 
as I had intended to do a fortnight ago. I looked in vain for a 
report of the statesmanlike speeches. But- 1 have a high opinion 
of the spectator's insight since it put you forward as one of the 
men of intellect whom the country should delight to honour, 

Horsman had a genius for quarrelling, and it was only 
natural that the irascible Scotsman should fall foul of his 
antagonist. Speaking in Liskeard soon after the election 


he denounced him in unmeasured terms, concluding with 
the terrible indictment, " the truth is not in him." He 
was at once challenged to substantiate the charge. Mr. 
Courtney, he rejoined, had declared that he had come to 
Liskeard without invitation or communication ; but he, 
the speaker, had seen a telegram in which he had announced 
himself. The reply was a mere quibble, for the telegram 
merely stated that he was about to present himself to the 
electors. The controversy was fought out in the Times, 
and for nearly a fortnight the Member for Liskeard gave 
demonstrations in the art of invective. " A collection of 
the phrases and epithets he has applied to me," wrote the 
defeated candidate, " from the first moment I ventured to 
appear as his opponent, would be a curiosity in the Utera- 
ture of vituperation." But Horsman's ways were well 
known, and it was no discredit to any man to be the object 
of his strident rebukes. Courtney found no lack of sym- 
pathy within the precincts of Printing House Square ; for 
Delane himself had been truculently attacked in past years 
for his supposed servihty to Palmerston. Even Lowe, his 
old bed-fellow in the Cave of Adullam, roundly condemned 
Horsman's conduct as " quite inexcusable." 

The Liberal citizens of Liskeard shared Lowe's view of 
the controversy, and a week or two later Courtney received 
a requisition signed by a majority of the registered electors 
to visit the borough. Accordingly on March 31 he deHvered 
an address. After the defeat of the previous year, he began, 
he believed that a few years in Opposition would be useful 
for the Liberal Party as a time of education, and that the 
Tories might perform some useful work ; but he had been 
sadly disappointed. Gladstone had earned his repose, but 
he hoped and beheved that he would resume the leadership. 
A reform of county government was urgently required, and 
Gladstone alone could grapple with it. Another important 
question which ought not to be shirked on account of its 
immense difficulties was the disestablishment and disendow- 
ment of the EngHsh Church. The franchise must be extended, 
and, what was of still greater importance, the single-member 
constituency must yield to a larger unit in the interests of 


fair representation. These and other reforms should be 
adopted by the party ; and he had no desire to see the 
Liberals back in office till they were prepared with a con- 
structive programme. The speaker was forthwith adopted 
as prospective Liberal candidate at the next General 
Election ; but the period of waiting was to be shorter than 
he had any right to expect. At the end of 1876 Horsman's 
stormy career came to an end, and Courtney offered himself 
for a second time to the electors of Liskeard, not unreason- 
ably confident of success. 

To his sister Margaret 

Liskeard, December 3. — I telegraphed to Will yesterday a 
message which you possibly received at dinner. This opponent 
is Lieut. -Colonel John Sterling, second or younger son of John^ 
Sterling and son-in-law of Sir John Trelawny, a fact he states 
in a little circular he has issued. Sir John has no influence 
here ; he once stood for the place and was beaten, and so far 
this opposition does not seem dangerous, though it would be 
pleasanter to have a walk over. All my friends appear to be 
very staunch ; at all events the leaders are, and I suppose when 
they are the rest will be. 

On December 22 the Liberal candidate was elected by 
388 to 281 — the largest number of votes ever cast in Lis- 
keard — and took his seat at the opening of the session of 

To his sister Margaret 

February 9, 1877. — You will have seen I took my seat yester- 
day — my introducers being Edmund Fitzmaurice and Mundella. 
There was a great crowd in the House of Lords to see Lord 
Beaconsfield ; the ladies in the galleries laughed when he and 
his introducers sat down on the Earls' bench and put on their 
cocked hats and took them off again. I expect we shall be 
ha\dng a great debate in the House of Commons on the Eastern 
question in about a fortnight. There was a meeting of the 
Liberal chiefs on Wednesday and they resolved to show fight, 
the Duke of Argyll insisting upon it. 

" When Courtney was elected," wrote Justin M'Carthy, 
" I remember having a talk with an experienced Member of 


the House who set himself up as an authority on all poUtical 
questions, ' Mark my words,' he said to me with an air of 
portentous wisdom, ' he will be a dead failure in the House 
of Commons.' I did mark his words, and Courtney was not 
a dead failure, but a very Uve success." ^ When the new 
member for Liskeard entered the House of Commons it had 
lost its leader ; for DisraeH had crossed the lobby at the 
close of the previous session. The new leader of the House, 
Stafford Northcote, was notable for character rather than 
abihty, and his lieutenants were capable but not briUiant. 
The Liberal AchiUes had retired to his tent, whence he 
emerged at intervals ; and the Opposition followed the un- 
selfish but rather drowsy leadership of Lord Hartington. 
The most active section of the Liberal party was Radical, 
not Whig, and it was from such men as Fawcett and Dilke, 
Trevelyan and Wilfrid Lawson that the most effective 
criticism of the Government was heard. To this group, 
reinforced as it was by the recent arrival of Joseph Chamber- 
lain, Courtney attached himself. His frequent attendance 
at debates had made him familiar with Parliamentary forms, 
and the stage fright which daunts the new member was 
entirely lacking. He was, moreover, trained by long years 
of joumaUsm to clear statement and to all the arts of 
argument and analysis ; and within a week of taking his 
seat he had deUvered his maiden speech. 

Courtney chose for his plunge the main political topic of 
the session, the Eastern Question, on which the Li'^eral 
party was not unanimous. While Hartington and Forster 
shared to some extent the Russophobia of the Government, 
Gladstone, deeply stirred by the Bulgarian atrocities, 
emerged from his retirement and proclaimed in ringing 
tones the poUcy of " bag and baggage." His pamphlet on 
Bulgarian Horrors, published in the autumn of 1876, sold 
by tens of thousands, and his oratorical campaign aroused 
extraordinary enthusiasm. The Prime Minister, on the 
other hand, dismissed the tales of Turkish devilry as coffee- 

^ Reminiscences, ii. p. 369. In his History of Our Own Times, i88o-i8gy, 
p. 154. the forecast is ascribed to a " writer in a very influential London 


house babble, and was far more interested in checkmating 
Russia than in emancipating the Balkan Christians. Lord 
Salisbury had been sent to take part in a Conference at 
Constantinople ; but his mission was doomed to failure, 
since the Porte knew that his recommendations would never 
be enforced so long as Beaconsfield was at the helm. In 
the debate on the Address Gladstone raised the Turkish 
policy of the Government, taking as his text the reference 
in a recent despatch to " our treaty engagements with 
Turkey." His denial of the existence of such engagements 
to assist Turkey against Russia was emphatically reiterated 
by the member for Liskeard. We were under obligations 
to the Guaranteeing Powers, he maintained, but not to 
Turkey ; nor did the Treaty of 1856 place Turkey under 
obligations to us. We agreed to respect her integrity and 
independence in order to ensure the peace of Europe, not to 
defend her against the consequences of her own misrule. 
The power of counsel and warning employed at the recent 
Conference of Constantinople was derived not from treaty 
but from the public law of Europe ; for the community of 
States possessed an inherent right to prevent any of their 
number from becoming a danger to the peace of the world. 
We must have freedom to deal with the problems of the 
Near East as they arose, and neither friendship with Turkey 
nor fear of Russia ought to prevent us from alleviating the 
cruel lot of the Christian subjects of the Sultan. 

It was a strong Gladstonian utterance, carefuUy pre- 
pared and delivered with obvious conviction, " I well 
remember Mr. Courtney's advent in the House of Commons," 
writes Mr. Burt, " two years after I had become a member. 
He was already weU known to many members. To have 
won a great outside reputation does not always help a 
member to the esteem of the House. Indeed he is listened 
to more critically than would be an ordinary debutant. 
Moreover, the House has its own standard of measurement 
and makes its own estimates without regard to the ante- 
cedents of the new-comer. Of his maiden speech I have a 
clear recollection. I was sitting near to him at the time 
of its delivery. On such an occasion the House is always 


indulgent to a new member. Even to a practised speaker 
his maiden speech is something of an ordeal. Mr. Courtney 
in truth needed no special indulgence. He was never, I 
should think, a timid man, never lacked self-confidence, 
and I distinctly remember that the speech was dehvered 
with complete self-possession and with great effect. In 
substance, in arrangement, in phrasing and in deUvery it 
could not have been bettered. A few months earlier I had 
been privileged to hear Mr. Chamberlain's maiden speech, 
which, needless to say, was a complete success. When he 
concluded, a member sitting beside me said, ' That speech 
is Uke a good leading article.' That remark was meant to 
be, and was really, a compUment, impl5dng that it was 
more perfect in form and in phrasing than impromptu 
utterances are wont to be. On Mr, Courtney's maiden 
speech the same verdict might have been given." 

Mr. Burt's description is confirmed by a report from the 
Press Gallery. 1 " The speech was made at an hour when 
the House was very thin, and it was therefore in a manner 
thrown away. Many members would have come eagerly 
in if they had known it was coming off just then. Is it a 
good or a bad omen for the futiu^e of a political debater 
when his first speech is made with perfect ease and self- 
possession ? Mr. Courtney was as easy and self-possessed 
as if he had been addressing the House once or twice a night 
for the last twenty sessions. It was an excellent piece of 
argument, somewhat fine-drawn, delivered in a clear, strong 
voice, and was not without a certain dignity of effect. But 
it was a little too professorial for the general style of the 
House of Commons." 

The speaker himself was fairly satisfied with his own 

To his sister Margaret 

February 17. — You at home will like to hear something of 
my maiden speech last night. It was begun in a very thin 
House as Bob Montagu had sent everybody away, but a fair 
number came in from the Lobbies and some very good men 
were there. Northcote and Bourke on the Treasury Bench, 
* The Examiner, February 24, 1878. 


and on our side Gladstone, Hartington, Lowe, Forster, Goschen, 
Childers, Harcourt, besides the stragglers below the gangway. 
I spoke rather too quickly and with too much condensation, 
but I believe I made my meaning clear and commanded atten- 
tion. The matter was substantial, though the art might have 
been better. I was a good deal congratulated at the close with 
a warmth of approval that showed I had accomplished some- 
thing more than a succes d'estime. On the whole I am not 
dissatisfied with the beginning ; the performance will give me 
some reputation as tolerably long-headed, and enthusiasm will 
come later on. The Daily News refers to the speech in its leader. 

A few days later he met the real, if not the titular, leader 
of his party. 

To his sister Margaret 

March i. — I dined last Friday in a very small, quiet, family 
sort of gathering at Sir Walter James's in Whitehall Gardens. 
His son, who is in the House (member for Gateshead), asked me 
in the afternoon to come if I was not engaged, sa3dng that Glad- 
stone was coming. It appears that Gladstone is accustomed to 
drop in there in a quiet way. We were in *all ten or twelve ; 
Sir Walter and Lady James, Walter James and his wife, Glad- 
stone and Mrs. Gladstone and niece and two or three others ; 
an oval table and conversation general and agreeable. 

His opinions on the Eastern Question were expounded 
in greater detail in a long article which occupied the place 
of honour in the May number of the Fortnightly Review. 
The policy which has for its object the conservation of the 
Ottoman Empire, he begins, and discourages with the whole 
influence of England every suggestion tending towards its 
dissolution, is erroneous in its conception and mischievous 
in its consequences ; and the policy which favours its 
gradual dismemberment and disintegration, and would 
approve and support the employment of the allied force of 
Europe in setting this process in motion, is wise and bene- 
ficial. In a word generosity and statesmanship concur in 
recommending the piecemeal dissolution of the Ottoman 
rule. A brief glance at the history of the Near East reveals 
the ebbing of the Turkish tide, and the further contraction 
of the Empire is inevitable. The Turks remain a conquering 


tribe, lacking the faculty of incorporating the races it holds 
in subjection, and their numbers have thus diminished 
under the strain of war. If their dominion is thus destined 
to further disintegration, the only question is whether the 
next step should be taken at the present moment or deferred. 
To answer this question we must glance at the States which 
have been liberated from the yoke — Hungary, Greece, 
Roumania, Serbia. Though Greece has disappointed certain 
expectations, no one can travel from Constantinople to 
Athens without feeling that he has exchanged a decaying 
for a growing world. Compare again the condition of the 
peasantry on the Roumanian and the Bulgarian side of the 
Danube. Remember the continual revolts in Bosnia and 
Crete against intolerable conditions. Every step in the 
progress of dismemberment has been a step forward, and 
the Crimean War was a crazy attempt to arrest what ought 
to have been faciUtated. At that time England was not 
alone in her mistaken poHcy ; but, while other States have 
come to recognise the necessity of a further contraction, 
the British Government has stood alone in its dogged resolve 
to resist every Mmitation of independence and every in- 
vasion of the integrity of the Ottoman Empire. Our 
resistance has prevented the changes that are so urgently 
needed and that might have been peacefully secured by a 
united Europe. It is pitiable to read the Crimean prophecies 
of the approaching regeneration of Turkey, for her dissolu- 
tion is a fore-ordained result of unalterable causes. 

The real ground for the action of the British Government 
is not love of Turkey, but fear of Russia. The Government 
of Russia is corrupt, despotic and aggressive ; but her record 
as an emancipator of the Christian subjects of the Turk is 
not without honour, and travellers report an outburst of 
S5anpathy among the masses unstained by territorial greed. 
Such a mood provides a precious lever for international co- 
operation in the task of humanity. Austria has neither 
a desire for change nor a desire to prevent it, and a bold 
appeal to Bismarck might have avoided the danger of iso- 
lated action by Russia, left Turkey without a friend in 
Europe, and compelled her to surrender at discretion. The 


British Government, however, has committed every possible 
mistake. It has indirectly encouraged Turkey to refuse 
reform, rejected every proposal from Russia for inter- 
national pressure, failed to keep the peace, and even rendered 
possible a European conflagration. Yet even now it is not 
too late to mend. If we proclaimed that we had abandoned 
the vain policy of maintaining the independence and in- 
tegrity of the Ottoman Empire, and were bent on co-operat- 
ing with the other Powers in raising under European tutelage 
a confederation of free States out of its ruins, we should at 
last be doing something to redeem the past. 

It was a ringing challenge to Disraeli's Russophobe and 
Turcophil policy. Its wisdom was to be shown by Lord 
Sahsbury's tragic admission twenty years later that we had 
put our money on the wrong horse, and forty years later 
by our union with Russia against the corrupt and effete 
Power that had been kept on its legs by the blunders of 
British statesmen. The Opposition, however, was too 
divided to take vigorous action against the Government, 
and shirked a debate which would reveal their weakness. 
After the Easter recess, however, Gladstone determined to 
intervene, and gave notice of four Resolutions, censuring 
the Bulgarian massacres ; declaring Turkey to have lost the 
right to British assistance, moral or material ; demanding 
local self-government in the disturbed territories ; and 
urging Great Britain to join the Powers in extorting guaran- 
tees for humanity and justice. These Resolutions, mild as 
they were, proved too strong meat for the digestion of 
Hartington and Forster, and the third and fourth were 
reluctantly sacrificed to secure united Liberal support. 
The attack was launched on May 7 in a speech of lofty 
eloquence and appeal ; but the avowed differences of the 
Opposition leaders took the heart out of the debate, and 
gave the Government an easy victory. 

This exhibition of organised impotence was warmly 
resented by the Radical wing, led by Fawcett, Chamberlain 
and Courtney. Resuming the debate on the third day the 
member for Liskeard sharply denounced the action of the 
Government and the inaction of the Opposition. He had 


heard " with consternation and bewilderment " that the 
third and fourth Resolutions had been dropped ; for the 
first and second were so generally accepted that they were 
hardly worth a discussion. Who would deny that the 
House disapproved the Bulgarian massacres or that Turkey 
had thereby lost all claim to our material or moral support ? 
It was said that the unanimity of the Liberal party has been 
secured by it. No one could be more deeply desirous for 
such unanimity ; but though it might have a single voice, 
it was not a voice that expressed a mind or a will. " The 
present position of the party, resembling too faithfully the 
European Concert, is that of a Greek chorus which utters 
moral sentiments at intervals without affecting in any way 
the action of the play." The Home Secretary observed that 
no member had ventured to recommend coercion. " In 
the most unequivocal manner I am prepared to recommend 
the employment of force." One poUcy was that of main- 
taining the status quo of the Ottoman Empire. A wiser 
course was to assist in its gradual dismemberment. Such 
a course involved the possibility of war. But, as the 
Powers would act together, it would only be a nominal 
coercion, as when half a dozen pohcemen teU a rough that 
if he resists they will have to use their truncheons on him. 
Our true model was Canning. His convictions dated not 
from the Bulgarian atrocities, but from the Crimean War, 
and the experience of every subsequent year had only 
served to confirm them. 

The speech was praised by Mr. ChapUn, an opponent, 
as a manly and straightforward avowal of poUcy, and was 
repeatedly mentioned during the remainder of the long 
debate. " Mr. Courtney's speech," wrote the London 
Correspondent of the Western Morning News, " wiU secure 
for him in the opinion of the House of Commons that high 
position as a speaker which those who knew him personally 
were persuaded he ought to occupy. Until this week 
circumstances have been rather against him, and he has 
scarcely had an opportunity to do himself justice ; but 
yesterday's speech was worthy of his article in the Fort- 
nightly, which was the best written contribution to the 


literature of the Eastern Question since Mr. Gladstone's 
pamphlet. It was indeed almost the best that has been 
dehvered on the Resolutions. There was no finer passage 
in all the present debate than the vindication of Russia to 
which the interruptions of his opponents spurred him." 

In denouncing the Turkophil tendencies of the Prime 
Minister the member for Liskeard was following the lead 
of Gladstone, and was supported by influential members 
of his party ; but in opposing the South African policy of 
the Government he stood almost alone. The annexation 
of the Transvaal in the spring of 1877 was regarded in most 
Liberal circles with dislike as a new illustration of Disraehan 
Imperialism ; but its causes and probable consequences 
were studied by few. From the first Courtney raised his 
voice against an act which appeared to him unjustifiable in 
itself and fraught with menace to British interests. In 
speaking on Gladstone's Resolutions, he expressed his 
astonishment at the strange contrast between the timidity 
of Ministers in Turkey and their rashness in another quarter 
of the globe. " The Government has just annexed an 
independent Republic in South Africa. It may be said that 
it wiU involve no risk ; but to that I reply. Wait tiU the end. 
That act, without any justification of policy or principle, 
exposes the country to greater peril of war than my sugges- 
tions for the coercion of Turkey." 

The annexation of the Transvaal was only part of the 
poKcy of Lord Carnarvon, the Colonial Secretary, who was 
anxious to see South Africa follow the Canadian model. 
On the second reading of the South African Federation Bill 
on July 9 the Under Secretary for the Colonies, Mr. Lowther, 
defended the annexation. The white population, he 
declared, was 40,000, who were confronted by a million 
blacks. When war broke out with the natives the Transvaal 
had been repeatedly warned by the British Government, 
The defeat of the Boer forces opened up the prospect of a 
general native revolt. Sir Theophilus Shepstone had been 
sent to Pretoria to explain the danger to the British colonists 
and to take measures for their security. Though the 
President and other members of the Government had pro- 


tested against the proposed change, the Republic had been 
annexed, and the British Cabinet had approved the step. 
The country was healthy and rich in minerals, and once 
delivered from native dangers and financial difficulties he 
anticipated for it a happy future. 

The rejection of the Bill was moved by Courtney in a 
speech of earnest warning. He pointed out that the Cana- 
dian Bill of 1867 was the work of the Canadians themselves, 
whereas the present plan of federation was the child of 
Downing Street. Its main object was to recover territories 
which we had deUberately resigned. The annexation of the 
Transvaal was defended on the plea of danger from the 
natives. But we had refrained from annexing the Orange 
Free State, which was conterminous with Natal and Cape 
Colony, despite its four years' war with the Basutos ; and 
it was now peaceful and prosperous. If the Transvaal had 
been left in peace it too would have developed its resources, 
and in time would probably have entered into free union 
with the British Colonies. This happy prospect had been 
frustrated by Sir Theophilus Shepstone, " dressed in a Uttle 
brief authority," and by Lord Carnarvon's envoy, Mr. 
Froude. The Colonial Secretary had urged confederation 
before informing himself whether it would be acceptable ; 
and his precipitancy was resented in both the Dutch and 
British colonies. The fear of war spreading in South Africa 
was advanced as a reason for the Bill ; but the danger was 
over before Shepstone arrived. He had been instructed to 
obtain the consent of the people and the concmrence of the 
Governors of the colonies before taking action ; but he 
had done neither. " With or without support I shall fight 
the Bill ; for I beUeve Confederation to be inapplicable to 
South Africa, and the Bill involves us in a deed which, if 
ratified, wiU bring disgrace and dishonour on the EngUsh 
people." The rejection was seconded by Sir Charles Dilke ; 
but the second reading was carried by 81 to 19. 

Courtney renewed his opposition when the House went 
into Committee on the Bill, and returned to the charge in 
the last week of the session, when he moved that " the 
annexation of the South African Republic is unjustifiable. 


and calculated to be injurious to the interests of the United 
Kingdom and of its Colonies." The frequent suggestion 
that the natives might prove dangerous not only to the 
inhabitants of the Transvaal but to ourselves was not 
supported by Shepstone ; and indeed the natives under 
Secocoeni had been worsted by the small Transvaal force 
before we annexed the country. It had been falsely denied 
that the annexation had been secured by force, and much 
had been made of the alleged consent of the Transvaal 
Repubhc. Shepstone had been welcomed with cordiality 
because the people beUeved he had come to negotiate an 
offensive and defensive alliance, and annexation was a 
complete surprise. He had been told to obtain the consent 
of the Governors-General before acting, but had disobeyed 
the order. Though we had in past^time agreed to allow 
the Boers to trek into the interior, we had now undertaken 
the immense burden of administering the Transvaal. We 
should be compelled to take over its existing and prospective 
quarrels with the native chiefs, and it could be governed 
by despotic methods alone. To these familiar arguments 
Lowther returned the equally famiHar rejoinder that Shep- 
stone was a first-rate pubhc servant, and that the policy 
of the Transvaal would inevitably have led to a native war 
endangering the security of its neighbours. The dispute 
was incapable of settlement, for nobody could know how 
the situation would have developed if the country had not 
been annexed. But when the Zulu War broke out two 
years later Courtney pointed to his prophecy that annexa- 
tion would increase the danger to the British colonies. 

Courtney had quickly foimd his feet in the House of 
Commons, and he lost no opportunity of championing the 
causes to which he was pledged. If afforded the disciple 
of Mill peculiar satisfaction to support a Woman's Suffrage 
Bill, a hardy annual sponsored by Jacob Bright. In reply 
to Mr. Arthur Balfour and Isaac Butt, the latter of whom 
argued that " by the ordinance of Providence woman was 
never intended for these things," he pointed out that the 
considerations now employed against the vote were formerly 
urged against her education. " Even if her emancipation 


were accompanied by the risk of degradation which had 
been anticipated, I would face it in consideration of the 
advantages to be gained. There is no fear that courtesy 
from strong men to weak women will diminish." 

The report in Hansard gravely records that the member 
for Liskeard " spoke amid continued interruption " ; but 
we owe a less prosaic account of the incident to the lively 
pen of Sir Henry Lucy.^ " Mr. Courtney was too good a 
citizen to leave the House of Commons long lacking the 
benefit of his counsel. I have no recollection of his maiden 
speech ; but as early as the first week in June he suddenly 
achieved fame. It was a Wednesday afternoon, and the 
House was engaged on the second reading of the Woman's 
Suffrage Bill. That is one of several subjects on the flank 
of Imperial politics Mr. Courtney has made especially his 
own. He was anxious above all things that a division 
should be taken on the second reading. He succeeded in 
talking out the BiU. It was a quarter past five when he 
rose with a portentous sheaf of notes in his hand. At that 
time debate on Wednesdays might be continued till a 
quarter to six, when, if not otherwise concluded, it would 
automatically close. Mr. Courtney had something under 
half an hour at his disposal, and, had he been left un- 
disturbed, might have used the opportunity to advantage. 
It happens that thus early in his career he had succeeded 
in alienating the House, a position long ago retrieved by 
fuller acquaintance with his sterling quahties and his high 
capacity. There are few things the House of Commons 
resents more hotly than haste on the part of a new member 
to assist it with his counsel. At this epoch Mr. Courtney 
had strong views on the Eastern question and was not 
diffident in setting them forth. When he now appeared on 
an off - day, plainly predisposed to deliver a lecture on 
women's rights, members, in any circumstances shamelessly 
predisposed to make fun of the topic, resolved to ' have a 
lark.' He had not proceeded far when there were cries 
for the division. This interruption he met with angry 
rebuke that fanned the flame. For twenty minutes he 

^ Cornish Magazine, i888, pp. 162-3. 


stood and faced the storm. Opposite and around him was 
a crowd of hilarious gentlemen shouting ' 'Vide ! 'vide ! 
'vide ! ' When the roar of sound momentarily fell Mr. 
Courtney, raising his stentorian voice to thunderous heights, 
attempted to get in the fragment of a sentence. Then, as 
the winter storm surging through the forlorn trees, having 
apparently blown itself out, suddenly rises with angrier 
roar, so Mr. Courtney's voice was drowned in a fresh shout 
of ' 'Vide ! 'vide ! 'vide ! ' It was characteristic of his 
courage that, though still a new member, presumably in 
awe of the House, he for twenty minutes faced the music, 
the roar rising to a final yell of exultation when, as the 
hand of the clock pointed to a quarter to six, the Speaker 
rose with calls of ' Order ! order ! ' and Mr. Courtney sat 
down, having talked out the Bill he had risen to advocate." 

By the end of his first session the House was aware 
that the member for Liskeard was an able and well-informed 
man with a mind of his own. He had taken his stand 
beside Fawcett and the other Radical leaders, and in the 
dominant issue of the day he had supported Gladstone 
against the titular leaders of the party. His speeches had 
justified and increased the reputation with which he had 
entered the House, and his fearless independence won him 
respect in all camps. At a dinner-party given by Sir 
Charles Dilke the guests discussed the nature of " moral 
force " ; and the host, after reviewing various distinguished 
names, decided that " Courtney and Fawcett both have 
moral force." ^ " The House soon became aware of the 
ability of its new recruit," writes Lord Northbourne, who 
entered the House in 1874. " His personality left a mark 
on a crowd of very commonplace and ordinary M.P.'s, of 
the rank and file of whom I was one. He had a splendid 
intellect. He seemed always ready to Hsten to his intel- 
lectual inferiors, though I should imagine their society and 
conversation must have bored him. Combined with his 
massive brain power he had an abrupt and distant manner, 
and probably acquired the reputation of the same kind as 

^ Dilke' s Life, i. 219. 


another member whose name need not be repeated. Talk 

five minutes to Mr. , and you will find he is a clever 

fellow. Continue the conversation for another five minutes 
and you will discover he is very clever. Pursue it for 
fifteen minutes, and you will conclude he thinks you a fool. 
This was not intentional, I am sure, on Courtney's part ; 
but it is not surprising that a mind of this stamp was not 
very popular. He was rough but very human. The best 
comphment I could pay him was to say he resembled Dr. 
Johnson, of whom some one remarked that there was 
nothing of the bear about him except his skin." 

The Russo-Turkish conflict which Lord Beaconsfield had 
failed to prevent ran its course during 1877 and was finally 
settled in favour of Russia, largely by the aid of Roumanian 
arms. The Prime Minister made no secret of his sympathies, 
and at the Guildhall Banquet on November 9 he extolled 
the valour and patriotism of the Turkish troops. When the 
fall of Plevna and the capture of the Shipka Pass opened 
the way to Constantinople, a British Fleet was ordered to 
the Dardanelles. Lord Carnarvon and Lord Derby, who 
were opposed to a second Crimean War, resigned ; but the 
Foreign Secretary withdrew his resignation. ParHament 
had been smnmoned to meet before the appointed time, 
and was promptly invited to pass a Vote of Credit. On 
behalf of the Opposition a hostile amendment was moved 
by Forster ; but on the receipt of a false report that the 
Russians were advancing on Constantinople it was with- 
drawn. While the party leaders were vacillating Courtney, 
as usual, had a clear idea of what ought to be done, and 
explained his poHcy to the House. The Government, 
rel5dng on the outburst of popular passion against Russia, 
maintained that the nation was imanimous ; but this 
" unanimity," he declared, was imaginary. We must choose 
between Russia and Turkey. The Ministers said they were 
going to the Conference to act with Austria, to take their 
stand on the treaty of 1856, and to compel Russia to accept 
its conditions. These, he felt sure, were aims of which the 
people of England would not approve. It was quite 
impossible to doubt that the great majority looked back 


to the Crimean War with abhorrence and had no wish to 
abide by its results ; while many others would, if they 
could, reproduce that war. The coming Conference was 
fuU of the peril of war. Point after point might arise of a 
natiure to incite the Government and the people of England. 
He hoped we should shake ourselves free from Turkish 
and Austrian influences and assist in obtaining the freedom 
of Bulgaria and the Greeks. There was only one interest we 
had to guard, and that was the keeping open or keeping shut 
of the Dardanelles. If we aimed at anything else, let it be 
to neutrahse Austria and to uphold the settlement proposed 
by Russia of the question of the subject races of the Sultan. 
" There was only one really eloquent speech," wrote 
the London correspondent of the Western Morning News, 
" and that was Mr. Courtney's. He was continually inter- 
rupted by the members who sat opposite. The outcries 
seemed to make him very nervous, but the nervousness gave 
a noteworthy touch to the eloquence, making him more 
animated and more picturesque. He needs only one 
quahty to make him a favourite. He cannot joke. Last 
night he argued when he was howled at. He should sit 
for a while at the feet of his friend Sir Wilfrid Lawson, and 
then see what the House wiU think of him." 

To his sister Margaret 

February 9, 1878. — You wUl of course have seen that we 
have had very exciting times. The report in the Times was 
absurdly bad, being in fact in many parts unintelligible. For 
some reasons I was very well pleased with my performance. 
In the first place the House was in the most languid condition 
after the excitement before dinner, and speaker after speaker 
addressed most listless audiences. WeU, I certainly gave the 
discussion a new start, and puUed the men together. Next, 
although I had notes lying on the bench I never took them 
up or referred to them from beginning to end, which was a useful 
experience. The " excited gesticulation " of the Times was no 
loss of temper or self-command as suggested : I had foreseen 
what would happen at that part of my argument, and was 
simply pursuing the course I had arranged in my own mind. 
The Speaker pulled me up for doing what Bright and some others 


do in every considerable speech — but I cannot complain, as he was 
only recaUing the rule which is so often broken. Altogether I 
was well satisfied. Our leaders (Hartington, Forster, etc.) put 
themselves in a very ridiculous position yesterday, and they 
were so attacked right and left and so ironically cheered in the 
end that I should not have been surprised to-day to hear that 
Hartington had resigned. 

Throughout the spring England and Russia eyed each 
other like duellists waiting for the signal. When the 
Treaty of San Stefano, signed on March 3, terminated the 
war between Russia and Turkey, Lord Derby informed 
Gortschakoff that its terms must be laid before a European 
Congress. On the Chancellor's rejoinder that he could only 
accept a discussion of the clauses which affected European 
interests, the Cabinet decided to call out the reserves. 
Lord Derby promptly resigned, and war appeared immi- 
nent. The Opposition being stricken with paralysis, it was 
left to Sir Wilfrid Lawson to protest. He was strongly 
supported by Courtney, who denied the existence of an 
emergency. He was no more enamoured of the Treaty of 
San Stefano than was the Ministry, and it was a great blot 
that the inhabitants of Bosnia and Herzegovina, who had 
started the war of emancipation, were left uncared for. 
Much, however, might be achieved if the Treaty were 
considered in a Congress into which the Government would 
consent to enter in a fair and reasonable spirit. The real 
question was whether the Government intended to fight 
or whether its bellicose gestures were only swagger. In 
spite of Hartington's advice to withdraw the amendment. 
Sir Wilfrid, with Courtney's approval, insisted on a division 
and was beaten by 319 to 64. 

To his sister Margaret 

April 10, 1878. — You will have seen I spoke last night. The 
speech was not so well received as late speeches of mine have 
been, but I do not think the fault was mine. The hour was 
late and I represented a small minority, and the younger fellows 
on the other side were noisy. I was not dissatisfied with myself. 
Hartington who followed spoke very lamely, and was received 


with dead silence below the gangway, and with very little 
cheering above the gangway. Every now and then Forster's 
voice was heard saying " Hear, hear," all by himself. The 
World of this week contains an article called " Mr. Courtney's 
last," throwing upon my obstinacy and wrongheadedness all the 
blame of the division. I had a good deal to do with it, but 
Lawson required no prompting or support from me. He was 
quite staunch, and had made up his mind to move an amendment 
without any consultation with me, although it is true that the 
amendment he proposed was drawn by me. Some thirty of us 
had formed ourselves into a Committee, and had met from time 
to time under Dillwyn's chairmanship, and there were great 
divisions among us ; and last Friday we received a communica- 
tion from Lord Hartington explaining his own position, and 
Gladstone's also. This was so discouraging that Chamberlain 
was for giving up the opposition ; but I pointed out how guarded 
the language of the memorandvun was in reference to Gladstone, 
and prophesied that if we persevered he would vote with us, 
as in fact both he and Bright did. The result is therefore a 
justification of my position, but, as I have said before, Lawson 
needed no prompting. 

A week later, on the Easter adjournment, the fearless 
Sir Wilfrid returned to the charge. Lord Derby had de- 
scribed the Government policy as one not of drifting but of 
rushing into war. When a conflict might break out at 
any moment an Easter recess of three weeks was inexcus- 
able. His protest was supported by Fawcett and by 
Courtney, who adjured the Government no longer to 
obstruct the peaceful resettlement of the Near East. The 
Leader of the House made a reassuring reply ; but next 
day it was announced that Indian troops had been ordered 
to Malta. The dragging crisis was ended by the Congress 
of Berlin, from which the Prime Minister returned bringing 
" peace with honour." In the debate on the Treaty 
Courtney reiterated his disapproval of the policy of the 
Government since 1876, argued that the same result might 
have been attained without war had Great Britain joined 
Russia in her threat of coercion, and denounced the Conven- 
tion of Cyprus as discreditable and impracticable. " Turkey 
is said to be, and probably is, stronger for defensive purposes 
than before the war ; then why did not the Government 


assent to coercion eighteen months ago and thereby attain 
the same result without shedding blood or wasting wealth? " 
The results might be considerable, but what a price had 
been paid for them ! It was impossible to think Turkey 
would have been so insane as to have resisted the will of 
united Europe. Had she done so, the contest would have 
been short and sharp. He was not on the whole displeased 
with the Treaty of Berlin, though the neglect of Greek 
interests was regrettable ; but he owed no thanks to the 
Government for it, for it was got in spite of them. They 
had made the cardinal mistake of supposing they could 
restrain Russia by upholding a feeble Turkey, instead of 
replacing Turkey by vigorous free states. The horror of 
war, which seized them last year when for the world they 
would not coerce Turkey, did not prevent them from bring- 
ing over the Indian troops, caUing out the reserves, and 
sending the Fleet to the Marmora in order to re-establish 
the dominion of the Porte. 

The session of 1878 was darkened and dominated by 
the cloud in the East ; and Courtney was the only imofiicial 
member who kept a close watch on South Africa.^ When 
delegates from the Transvaal had protested against the 
annexation, they had been told that their fellow-countrymen 
were in favour of the change. On their return the assertion 
was tested, and a Memorial hostile to the annexation was 
signed by 6600 out of 8000 adtilt males. The correspond- 
ence between the delegates and the Colonial Secretary was 
circulated at the end of the session, and Comtney called 
attention to it on the closing day. It was natural that he 
should find confirmation in the plebiscite for his action in 
the previous year ; but after reiterating his objection to 
the annexation he passed to the practical question what 
should be done. The delegates had come to England, and 
they ought not to return without a Parhamentary discussion 
of their grievances. The Colonial Secretary had told them 
to accept the situation, return home and keep quiet ; but 
something more was needed. " I should not advise the 

1 Some years later Froude asked Mrs. Courtney how her husband 
came to know so much about South Africa, and to be so right. 


Government to restore their independence ; but we should 
give them some message which they could take back which 
would remove the disaffection. If we could satisfy the 
aspirations for freedom and self-government I hope we shall 
see gradually disappear the idea of a forcible attempt to 
reassert their independence which is undoubtedly simmering. 
Let us station troops at two or three points to avoid danger 
with the natives, and let them have their own institutions," 
A great, empty country could not be governed like a popu- 
lous British colony. The way to tranquilhse South Africa 
was to grant local autonomy to the Transvaal. To this plea 
Sir Michael Hicks-Beach, who had succeeded Lord Carnarvon 
as Colonial Secretary, replied that it was mischievous to 
excite hopes in the breasts of the delegates which could 
not be gratified. Lord Carnarvon had never promised a 
plebiscite, and the Government could not allow its policy to 
be influenced by Memorials. The official reply satisfied the 
House ; but Courtney's warning was to be recalled when the 
neglect of his advice produced the evils which he foresaw. 

A third cause for which Courtney had pleaded in his 
first session was again championed by him in his second. 
Jacob Bright 's Woman Suffrage Bill, for which he had 
spoken in 1877, was taken over by him in 1878 and intro- 
duced in June. At the opening of the sitting he presented 
a number of petitions, one of them exclusively signed by 
well-known women such as Florence Nightingale, Harriet 
Grote and Anna Swan wick. " I rise," he began, " in the 
well-assured beUef that it will be accepted in the Parlia- 
mentary lifetime of many of the older members of this 
House." Woman suffrage was a necessary element in 
representative government. Moreover, it would create 
interest in public affairs and strengthen the sense of citizen- 
ship and solidarity. " By advancing woman you will 
advance man with her. It will develop a fuller, freer, 
nobler woman." ^ In answer to the charge that he adduced 
arguments from the nebular region of natural rights he 

^ He was, in the words of Miss Emily Davies, " a very early and valued 
friend " of Girton, and was a member of the Executive Committee from 
1876 to 1896. 


avowed himself a pure utilitarian. " I base the whole oi 
my argument — and all the philosophy to which I can lay 
claim — on the doctrine of expediency." He and Gorst were 
the Tellers for the Bill, which secured the encouraging 
number of 140 Ayes to 220 Noes. To friends and foes aUke 
the figures seem to confirm the sanguine forecast of the 
opener's speech. 

During the same session he deUvered the first of many 
speeches on a theme as near to his heart as that of woman 
suffrage. Quoting Mill's well-known statement that pro- 
portional representation was the greatest reform still to be 
made in the art of pohtics, and the dictum of Prevost- 
Paradol that it would prove as important as the invention 
of steam, he pointed out the narrowing influence of the 
single-member constituency. MiU, for instance, after losing 
his seat, could not have canvassed any constituency with 
hope of success, and George Odger, one of the most trusted 
of working-class leaders, could never secure election. Every 
class, every school of thought should have its fair share of 
power. The cumulative vote had been rejected in the 
Franchise Act of 1867, but accepted in 1870 for the election 
of school boards. He was now full of hope that when a 
Reform BiU again came before the House something in the 
shape of the representation of minorities would form part 
of it. The Birmingham Confederation condemned the plan, 
for they knew it would destroy their power. For his part 
he would greatly rejoice if it produced that result. He 
could not conceive how any person who had any knowledge 
of the caucus system in the United States could watch the 
growth of that Confederation without apprehension. Its 
object was to repress local feeling, local energy and inde- 
pendence, and it sent forth its orders over the land by means 
of a great machinery of the most alarming character. 
Chamberlain was not in his place to take up the challenge, 
and the debate was cut short on the discovery that less than 
forty members were present. No Minister thought it 
worth his while to rise, and the missionary of the new faith 
reaUsed once again that indifference is often a more formid- 
able foe than hostihty. 


The prestige of the Government, which had never stood 
higher than after the Congress of Beriin, began to wane in 
the autumn when Lord Lytton, supported by his Russo- 
phobe chief, plunged into an unprovoked war with 
Afghanistan. For once the Opposition was united and 
resolute, and when the new session was opened in December 
Hartington vied with Gladstone in denouncing a policy 
which drove the Amir into the arms of Russia, and demanded 
the immediate recall of the bellicose Viceroy. Courtney 
joined in the attack, and deUvered an impressive warning 
against the Forward PoUcy on the Indian frontier. If the 
result of the present war, he argued, was a rectification of 
the frontier we should be driven, as soon as we had crossed 
the crests of the mountain ranges, to pour down to the 
vaUeys on the other side, as surely as water poured down, 
a hiU. Three years ago he had visited the country and 
taken the utmost pains to investigate the frontier question. 
He found a general concurrence among all authorities, civil 
and miUtary, against advancing the boundary. He beheved 
we might defy Russian intrigue in India so long as we 
governed the country justly and honestly. 

To his sister Margaret 

December 20, 1878. — My speech last week was delivered at 
a very good hour, except that I was obliged to compress it too 
much. I was not myself thoroughly satisfied with the effort, 
but a good many friends seem to have thought highly of it. 
Our side were in high spirits over the debate and the division, 
while the Government supporters appeared out of heart and 

Though the Government majority remained at full 
strength, its strength was beginning to ebb ; and while the 
Afghan campaign was still in progress a new and even 
graver complication arose in South Africa. The growth of 
the Zulu power had for some time threatened both the 
Transvaal and Natal, and in the autumn of 1878 Cetewayo 
appeared to be in such a dangerous mood that the High 
Commissioner, Sir Bartle Frere, applied for reinforcements. 


The Cabinet refused, urging prudence and compromise ; 
but Frere, honestly convinced that Natal was in danger, 
took the bit in his teeth and launched an ultimatum, demand- 
ing the break-up of the mihtary system of the Zulus and the 
reception of a British Resident. No reply was vouchsafed, 
and, after the expiry of the thirty days of grace, British 
troops entered Zululand. Lord Chelmsford ignorantly 
despised the enemy, but he was rudely awakened at 
Isandhlana. Though the battle was fought on January 22, 
the news only reached England on February 11, and Parlia- 
ment, which had adjourned after a few days' work in 
December, met under the shadow of the disaster. PubUc 
opinion was bewildered by the suddenness and severity of 
the shock, and Courtney's repeated warnings that the 
annexation of the Transvaal would increase instead of 
diminishing the native menace were freely recalled. 

To his Father 

February 13, 1879. — The session may be said to have begun 
last night when there were divers dinners and two big receptions, 
one at the Admiralty and the other at Lady Granville's. Mrs. 
Smith sent me a card for the former and I went there first. 
Almost all there were Ministers or Ministerial supporters or 
permanent officials belonging to no party. I went in on the 
heels of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who was very civil. 
I saw and shook hands with lots of people including Mrs. Smith, 
but Smith himself I could only nod to across a crowd. When I 
got to Lady Granville's the throng was immense. I found, 
somewhat to my amusement, that this frightful business in 
Zululand had made a great difference in my position. Mrs. 
Pennington, who is always very good-natured, said, " Mr. 
Courtney, you are the hero of the hour ; I have been told so two 
or three times, and I have said, he deserves it." I met with 
some evidence of the state of the case when I got up in the 
saloons. Even Hartington was moved to open his mouth. 
" You must feel in the proud position of the man who has been 
right all along." Lord Granville I did not see till late ; I was 
talking to Lord Dufferin, telling him, jokingly, that I should 
come to see him at St. Petersburg, when I felt my elbow twitched 
and turning round there was Lord Granville. We chatted 
about nothing in particular for some time, and then he said. 


" Whenever you have a dull afternoon in the House there is 
always tea here, dress or not dress." I don't know what he 
meant exactly by the last words, as no one would dress for after- 
noon tea, but his general intention was plain. 

The obvious duty of the Government was either to recall 
the High Commissioner or to support him ; but after taking 
a month to reflect they chose a third course, combining a 
sharp censure of his action with a request to remain at his 
post. This illogical compromise positively invited attack, 
and the Opposition in both Houses moved a vote of censure 
on Sir Bartle Frere for making war, and on the Government 
for not recalling him. On the third night of the debate on 
Sir Charles Dilke's motion Courtney delivered what was 
described by the speaker who followed him as an impassioned 
harangue. Cetewayo, he declared, had not possessed the 
power, even if he had the will, to carry out the threats 
imputed to him ; and had he been so terrible and treacherous 
he would have invaded Natal long ago when it was denuded 
of troops. This line of attack was common to many of the 
Opposition orators ; but the member for Liskeard threw his 
net much wider. All our subsequent difficulties, he con- 
tended, were due to the annexation of the Transvaal, which 
increased our responsibihties and exposed our colonies to 
certain and immediate danger. We had taken over a 
country which, on account of its size and the hostiUty of 
its inhabitants, we could not control, and we had inherited 
its border quarrels. Now that the folly of our action had 
been demonstrated, we should release the Transvaal and 
thus erect a barrier between our colonies and the natives. 

The war dragged on throughout the spring, and in May 
Lord Chelmsford was superseded by Sir Garnet Wolseley, 
who was also entrusted with supreme authority in the 
Transvaal and Natal. Before, however, the new commander 
reached his post, the Zulu army was defeated by Lord 
Chelmsford at Ulundi. The peril was over, and there was 
little left for Wolseley but to take Cetewayo captive. With 
the end of the war in sight the political side of the South 
African problem came up for consideration. At the close 
of the session, in discussion of Supply, Courtney once more 



drew his accustomed moral from the tale. The war, he 
declared, had been inflicted on South Africa by Lord 
Carnarvon and Sir Bartle Frere. The struggle with the 
Zulus was only an episode — an illustration of the results of 
a pohcy which would raise other enemies not more easily 
subdued than Cetewayo. The Government's desire for 
Confederation meant a policy of active extension and the 
permanent retention of the Transvaal. When the colonies 
were told that if they involved themselves in war they 
must bear the consequences, there were twenty-five years 
of peace. Frere had decided that our neighbours must be 
subordinates ; equals they could not be. When we had 
got rid of the Zulus or the Swazis, there would be some other 
race to deal with, and we should be landed at the Zambesi. 
As long as our colonists knew that in all their difficulties 
we should come to their assistance, so long would they go 
on calling upon us to do so. Retention of the Transvaal 
involved keeping a British soldier in the country for every 
Boer inhabitcint. Such a policy would have to be dropped 
on account of its expense, if not of its immorahty. 

In the later years of Beaconsfield's rule the attention of 
Parhament was almost monopoUsed by war and rumours 
of war. The author of Sybil and Coningsby had lost his 
interest in the people and had learned to think in continents. 
Meanwhile the friends of social and political reform renewed 
their appeal in each succeeding session, not expecting to 
secure the assent of a Conservative Chamber, but deter- 
mined to prepare public opinion for the melting of the 
snows. For the third time Courtney pleaded the cause of 
Woman Suffrage, preferring, for the sake of variety, a 
motion to a bill. On this occasion he was able to appeal to 
the conversion of the State of Wyoming ; but the division 
was disappointing, for only 103 supporters followed him 
into the lobby. 

To his sister Margaret 

March 14, 1879. — You saw that my speech on Tuesday week 
was a success. The effect of it may be best gathered from 
Punch, especially if you remember how that great authority 


spoke of Blennerhassett and myself last year, when we discussed 
the Representation of Minorities, On Wednesday I dined with 
Lord Hartington. At the door I met Lord Houghton who was 
overflowing ; he had been going to write me a pretty little 
note, he said, and was almost sorry we had met, Hartington 
himself was very cordial and chatty, and I asked after his cold 
with affectionate interest. Friday's speech was not by any 
means so good ; the audience was thin, and there was a creeping 
fog in the House which became thicker at a later hour, but 
Gladstone did me the compliment of listening most attentively, 
and some of the ladies upstairs began to hope for his conversion. 
The attack of Henry James at the end of the debate was rather 
a tribute of respect than damaging. The division was exceed- 
ingly unsatisfactory in respect of numbers — I hardly know why. 

Though Courtney belonged to the Radical group of the 
party, he was not an undiscriminating supporter of every 
item in their programme. With admirable persistence 
George Trevelyan brought forward an annual Resolution 
for extending the franchise to the agricultural labourer. 
The Conservatives could not be expected to support it, and 
among the Whigs Lowe and Goschen were its declared 
opponents. In 1877, however, it was blessed by Hartington, 
and it was generally recognised that the next Liberal 
Government would complete the work of 1867. The 
member for Liskeard supported the demand, but refused to 
vote for it unless accompanied by minority representation. 
After the Resolution had been proposed and seconded by 
Trevelyan and Dilke on March 4, 1879, he explained why 
he could not support them in the lobby. The county 
franchise, he believed, was bound to come, but he could not 
desire it in the form presented by his friends. Trevelyan's 
speeches showed no perception of the great and growing 
evils which infested their electoral system. Almost the 
whole party had now been won over ; but enfranchisement 
was not representation. He would be delighted to see 
Joseph Arch in the House, but would they get him by the 
proposed machinery ? If they wished the newly enfran- 
chised classes to obtain not only the vote, but representation, 
not only the shadow, but the substance, they must adopt a 
new plan. This distinction between enfranchisement and 

148 LIFE OF LORD COURTNEY chap, vii 

representation seemed mere pedantry to his Radical friends. 
" Courtney declined to support the motion," wrote Sir 
Wilfrid Lawson, " as it did not deal with the representation 
of minorities. But three days later he moved a resolution 
in favour of enfranchising women, even without the minority 
matter being first attended to. How hard it is for even the 
most honest and able of men (and he is one of them) always 
to keep an even keel on poUtical voyages ! " ^ 

The autumn and winter of 1879 brought no rehef to 
the tension of pubHc affairs. The Afghan campaign was 
followed with anxious interest. The failure of the Irish 
crops led to the foundation of the Land League by Michael 
Davitt, and British industry was in the trough of the sea. 
A month before Christmas Gladstone opened his Midlothian 
campaign against the Dictator who had kept the country 
in a fever of excitement with wars and rumours of war. 
When ParUament met on February 5, 1880, it was under 
the shadow of the impending election, and after a month of 
listless debates a dissolution was announced. The Prime 
Minister issued a Manifesto against Home Rule in a letter 
to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland which served as his 
Election Address ; but Home Rule was not before the 
country, and the electorate voted on the record of the 
Government. The cold fit had followed the hot fit, and 
the prophet of Imperiahsm was hurled from power by the 
Liberal leader whose windows had been smashed in 1878 
by the Jingo mob. 

* Russell, Life of Sir W. Lawson, p. 142. 



No soldier in the Liberal army detested the Beaconsfield 
policy more heartily, or threw himself into the fray with 
greater zeal or confidence, than Courtney. A preliminary 
skirmish took place in the Fortnightly Review, to which he 
contributed a fighting article entitled " Turkish Fallacies 
and British Facts." ^ It must now be confessed, he began, 
that those who had striven for the independence and in- 
tegrity of the Ottoman Empire had been false guides. 
Great Britain should have followed Gladstone's advice and 
joined the Great Powers or even Russia alone in compelling 
the Porte to accept their joint counsels. Had war resulted, 
which was improbable, it would have been far shorter and 
less sanguinary than that which had occurred. " Men's 
lives are to be used and, when necessary, to be spent ; and, 
if the cause is adequate, I am ready to join in Wordsworth's 
sentiment, ' Yea, Carnage is God's Daughter.' " All that 
Great Britain had achieved was to water down the Treaty 
of San Stefano, to the detriment of the Christian subjects 
of the Sultan. Our poUcy had been mainly shaped by our 
fear of an extension of Russian power, but her influence in 
the Near East was very much greater than it would have 
been had we co-operated with her in the risks and glories 
of emancipation. Moreover, our intervention after a 
struggle in which we had borne no part had merely deepened 
the resolution of Russia to pursue her southward march. 
Instead of assisting in the establishment of free States, we 
had resisted the beneficent change and endeavoured to 

* March 1880, 


cripple its efficiency. Russia took upon herself the whole 
duty of midwifery, and had won a corresponding degree of 
gratitude and influence. The freed States felt no respect 
for us, and the Sultan ostentatiously manifested disrespect. 
Such were the bitter fruits of the Beaconsfield dictatorship. 
" Liskeard," writes Lord Fitzmaurice, " was a con- 
stituency peculiar in this, that to the last the majority of 
the electors seemed to prefer a Liberal who was of an in- 
dependent character, the sort of candidate in fact whom 
the party wire-puller does not love. It was consequently 
much sought after by Liberals of rather detached opinions. 
In 1880 Courtney had to fight the Rt. Hon. E. P. Bouverie, 
like Horsman a severe and independent critic of Mr. Glad- 
stone and in earlier days of Lord Russell, who had forced 
on him the sobriquet of the " candid friend." The contest 
between these two so very similar candidates provoked 
much amusement and some heart-burnings, and it was said 
at the time that there ought to have been two Liskeards, 
one for Mr. Courtney, the other for Mr. Bouverie." As 
there was unfortunately only one Liskeard, and as the 
country clamoured for Gladstone, there was never much 
doubt as to the result. 

To his sister Margaret 

March 4. — I suppose you are all more or less excited over 
Bouverie's candidature. If he persists we shall beat him well ; 
but he may still prefer to try Salisbury, 

March 23 (on reaching Liskeard). — Bouverie's defeat seems 
to me absolutely certain. I shall be disappointed if the majority 
against him is less than 80, and I don't think it will be so low. 

The seat was held by a majority of 69. On his journey 
to London Courtney met W. H. Smith, " rejoicing that we 
had a good majority and not displeased to be reUeved from 
hard work." A pile of congratulations awaited him, among 
them a warm letter from Lord Granville, who had shown 
him more attention than any other Liberal leader. Of 
greater interest was a communication from the new Prime 


From W. E. Gladstone 

April 29, 1880. — I have the pleasure of proposing to you 
that you should permit me to place your name before the Queen 
as Secretary to the Board of Trade under the Administration 
which I am engaged in forming. It will be a great advantage 
to us to have the aid of your ability and energy in our arduous 
work. I ought to add, as the office has heretofore been on a 
different footing, that the salary will be £1200 a year. 

Should you do me the favour to accept, please to let the 
matter remain secret until I have had time to lay it before 
Her Majesty. 

The reply was despatched within a few hours. 

To W. E. Gladstone 

I must thank you very heartily for the kind offer you have 
made me and for the very handsome terms in which it is couched. 
I find myself, however, compelled to ask you to excuse my accept- 
ing it, and I hope you will forgive me if I frankly explain my 
reason. It is simply that I foresee many questions must soon 
come before Parliament for settlement which I have very much 
at heart, and I think I shall best promote them as a friendly 
and sympathetic supporter of your administration. I am 
drawn most reluctantly to this conclusion, as I should have been 
glad to have proved myself capable of loyal co-operation in 
official life. 

The desire for a free hand on certain outstanding ques- 
tions, however, was neither the only nor the principal 
reason for refusing office. 

To his Father 

May Day 1880. — I have but a very little time to write as 
I have people to see immediately, but I have a bit of news I 
think you would like to know and ought to know. On Thursday 
evening Mr. Gladstone sent me a letter offering me the Secretary- 
ship of the Board of Trade. I was a good deal puzzled what to 
do, but after the best consideration and such consultation as 
was possible I sent back a note yesterday morning decUning the 
offer. The Secretaryship would be under Chamberlain as Presi- 
dent, which did not recommend it, but I could and should have 
got over this had it been in another department. At the Board 


of Trade there is not Parliamentary work for more than one man, 
and I should have been completely effaced for a couple of years 
or so without any advantage in the way of official experience. 
I hope this will not displease you. Since I came to the conclu- 
sion I have not seen reason to doubt the balance was struck on 
the right side, though I should have liked the other way. 

John Courtney recorded his approval of the decision at 
the foot of the letter. " William and I, after hearing the 
pros and cons, think with Leonard it was wiser to decline ; 
it would have tied his tongue in the House and reduced him 
to a nonentity. Pecuniarily he loses nothing." 

A few details of the crowding events of the past month 
are added in a letter to his oldest friend, now a leading 
figure in the business and political life of New Zealand. 

To Richard Oliver 

May 4, 1880. — Telegrams and newspapers will, I hope, have 
explained my long silence. I have gone through a contested 
election and a Ministerial crisis. The first occupied me three 
weeks or more, just before and just after Easter. My opponent 
Bouverie is a man who has held a good position in the House 
of Commons in the past, but having no love for Gladstone he 
tormented him a good deal in the Parliament of 1868-74 and 
was rejected at the dissolution by the constituency for which 
he had sat for thirty years. Being out, he fell more and more 
behind in his opinions, and he opposed me as a moderate Liberal 
not disapproving of the foreign pohcy of Lord Beaconsfield. 
I was never anxious about the result, but I was forced to remain 
continually at Liskeard. The end of all was a victory for myself, 
and a great victory for the party — due, as I believe, to a general 
belief that Dizzy was adding trouble to trouble. The voters that 
swayed around did not object to the immorality of his poHcy, 
but that it did not work out smoothly. Gladstone offered me a 
place, that of Secretary to the Board of Trade, and I decHned 
it. It was a difficult thing to decide, but I beUeve I came to 
the right conclusion. I should have been Secretary under 
Chamberlain as President, and he is not the man I should select 
as a superior ; but this I could have got over had the work of 
the department been sufficient to occupy both of us. It is not, 
and the result would have been that I should have been com- 
pletely silenced in the House on general topics (Parhamentary 
Reform, South Africa, Ireland, etc.) without the compensating 


feeling that I was proving my capacity for departmental work. 
My own people fully back me up in my decision, and in the 
House of Commons it seems to have excited a certain kind of 
respect and admiration, although there are many who think 
that every man should take the first footing offered him. After 
I refused the berth it was offered to George Trevelyan, who 
declined, and it was then accepted by Evelyn Ashley. 

Further light is thrown on the formation of the new 
Ministry by an entry in Sir Charles Dilke's Memoirs. " On 
May I I had John Morley to dinner to meet Chamberlain, 
who was still sta5dng with me. We talked over the men 
who had been left out. Edmimd Fitzmaurice was one, but 
Mr. Gladstone did not care about having brothers. At 
Chamberlain's wish Courtney had been offered the Secretary- 
ship of the Board of Trade, which, however, he declined. 
He would have taken the place of Judge Advocate General, 
but it was not offered him." It was suggested at the same 
dinner that Courtney might succeed Sir Henry Drummond 
Wolff on the Commission for Reforms, appointed under 
Article 23 of the Treaty of Berhn, for the European provinces 
of Turkey and Crete ; but the place was eventually filled by 
Lord Edmund Fitzmaurice.^ 

Courtney congratulated himself on his liberty when he 
discovered from the Queen's speech that the new Govern- 
ment had resolved to retain the Transvaal ; and on the 
second day of the debate on the Address he wrathfuUy 
challenged the volte-face. Had not the new members in 
their election campaign denounced the conduct of the late 
Government in South Africa ? Yet they were asked to 
support in Parliament what they had condemned in the 
country, " The Boers will not be able to understand this 
change. They will ask why their wrongs, which were made 
so much of a few months ago, are not even recognised now." 
Moreover in the course of debate it was announced that Sir 
Bartle Frere was to remain at his post, though only a year 
ago Sir Charles Dilke had moved for his recall and every 
member of the new Cabinet had voted for it The Radicals 
had no intention of allowing the matter to rest. " On 

^ Life of Dilke, i. 316-17. 


May 24," writes Sir Charles Dilke/ " I found that Courtney 
and my brother (Ashton Dilke), with Dr. Cameron and 
Jesse Collings, were getting up an attempt to coerce the 
Colonial Office and Mr. Gladstone by preparing a list of 
between one and two hundred members who would vote 
with Wilfrid Lawson for a censure on the Government for 
not recalling Frere. Childers had found that it would be 
easy to recall him, for Frere had said that he would only go 
out for two years, and the two years were over. No doubt 
Frere, while blameworthy for the Zulu war, was not respon- 
sible for the Transvaal business ; but with our people he 
received the whole discredit for all that went wrong in South 
Africa, and it was impossible to wonder at it when one re- 
called the language that he habitually used, Frere was 
protected by Mr. Gladstone, and allowed to remain, a mistake 
for which we very gravely suffered." The Memorial to 
the Prime Minister, set on foot by Comtney and Dillwyn and 
signed by about ninety Members of Parliament, was sent in 
on June 3. " We, the undersigned members of the Liberal 
party, respectfully submit that as there is a strong feeling 
throughout the country in favour of the recall of Sir Bartle 
Frere, it would greatly conduce to the unity of the party and 
reheve many members from the charge of breaking their 
pledges to their constituents if that step were taken." ^ 
The first three signatures were Dillwyn, Wilfrid Lawson 
and Courtney. The Cabinet deferred its decision on the 
ground that the Cape Parliament was shortly to discuss the 
problem of federation. 

While Downing Street was waiting for Cape Town, the 
Boer leaders despatched an urgent memorandum to Courtney 
in support of his demand for the recall of Frere. 

From Kruger and Jouhert 

Capetown, June 26, 1880. — We beg leave again to send you 
some particulars relating to the state of affairs here. In the 
Friday sitting of the House of Assembly the Jingo-imperial 
policy received a deadly blow, to our great satisfaction because 
this result may lead to a better understanding at home how 

^ Life of Dilke, i. 319. * Martineau, Life of Sir Bartle Frere, ii. 391. 


utterly wrong and how impossible, how full of evil consequences, 
that policy is. The Zulu war was a strong lesson, but although 
it poured down streams of blood, and with a very few exceptions 
was as dishonourable as it was disastrous, this lesson was not 
powerful enough to force the Home Government to enter into 
a new and better way. They maintained Sir Bartle Frere, they 
denied any rights to the Transvaal, believing that the great 
statesman would be able to prepare the panacea for all the evils 
in South Africa. This panacea was the Confederation of the 
colonies in South Africa. Sir Bartle Frere, although not the 
intellectual author of this scheme, certainly may be called its 
great advocate. He was and is continually arguing not only 
the advisability of this scheme but the practicability, moreover 
contending that it is universally desired and applauded. 

We, taking it to be our duty, attempted all legal means in 
order to frustrate the scheme of a Conference. The only safety- 
valve for our country is the restoration of our independence. 
We are prepared — when right prevails again in the Transvaal — 
to consider all reasonable proposals for a closer union with the 
colonies. It is well known that the Republic repeatedly and in 
several resolutions has given expression to the same view. So 
did again the people in their mass-meeting of December last. 
But so long as the annexation is not rescinded we will do all 
we can to frustrate any scheme of the Imperial Government. 
England must come to the conviction that there is a great wrong 
here. The confidence in Sir Bartle Frere wiU by this time be 
utterly shaken. It cannot be longer denied that, so far as regards 
the Transvaal, Sir Bartle Frere is guilty of premeditated false- 
hood and mystification. Look at his despatch to the Colonial 
Secretary of the i8th of June 1879, reading as follows: "The 
great majority of the farmers whom I met with, even of those 
who had assisted at the large meetings of the Boers, did not 
wish the Republic back." Of all English officials honouring the 
Transvaal with their visits, no one raised such a deep and intense 
feehng of distrust, and no EngHsh statesman stirred up the 
hatred of our countr3mien against English government more 
than Sir Bartle Frere. Really we are of opinion, if it was not 
for him. South African difficulties would not have been heard 
of. All over South Africa reigns a general feehng of harmony ; 
we are ripe and adapted for a closer union ; we are strong 
enough and (we beg most humbly pardon : Aborigines Society !) 
Christianlike enough to conduct the government of the natives 
in a strong and rightful way. But the system has sown the seeds 
of animosity and hatred between Englishmen and Africanders. 


If, at the time of our difficulties, they had assisted us in a fair 
and generous way, the grateful people would have been ready 
for great sacrifices. Yes, even now, let a generous poUcy towards 
us be followed, and we assure you the people wiU be found 
inclined to meet you. We apologise, dear Sir, for having taken 
perhaps a valuable portion of your time, but we trust most 
sincerely that you will further aid and assist us. 

A month after this letter was written the Dutch in Cape 
Colony made it clear that they would never support a policy 
detested by the Transvaal, which demanded the restoration 
of its independence. Federation being thus indefinitely 
postponed, the Cabinet finally resolved to recall Frere. To 
the end of his Ufe Courtney looked back with satisfaction on 
his share in the recall of a man who, despite his high character 
and attractive personaUty, incarnated for him the spirit of 
aggressive ImperiaHsm. After gaining his way on the minor 
issue he returned to the larger problem of the Transvaal ; 
and at the close of the session he solemnly adjured the 
Government to undo the error of their predecessors. It 
would be more wise, dignified and honourable, he declared, 
to renounce the authority we had assumed. They all 
admitted the annexation to have been a mistake. (No ! 
No !) Then it must be branded by a stronger name. At 
the Cape and Natal there was the same conviction, shared 
even by those who had been foremost in applauding the 
act and even by those who had vehemently urged it. There 
had been a revulsion of feeUng in South Africa, for some 
new facts had emerged. President Burgers, for instance, 
had received a pension of £500. The repugnance of the 
Boers to foreign control was invincible. He would be told 
by the Colonial Office that the Boers were toning down and 
would recognise accomphshed facts. They had heard such 
statements over and over again ; but they had always been 
falsified. The Government had never dared to convene the 
Volksraad. He held in his hand a Memorial to the Prime 
Minister signed by 6000 Boers begging him to restore liberty 
to the Transvaal ; but when the signatories heard that he 
had changed his mind, they refused to send it to him, and 
it had been forwarded to himself. " We cannot have a 


federation with an unwilling State forming part. The spirit 
of interference with institutions which are not ours, because 
they do not come up to our standard of excellence, is folly. 
We are told that if we retire we shall leave confusion and 
anarchy ; but did that consideration prevent our retirement 
from Afghanistan ? " It was a slashing indictment, the 
effect of which was increased by the statement of Sir Michael 
Hicks-Beach, the late Colonial Secretary, that he was perfectly 
satisfied with the pohcy of his successor Lord Kimberley. 

The session only lasted from the middle of May till the 
beginning of September. The first skirmishes were fought on 
the election of Bradlaugh, which puzzled men of conscience 
Hke the Prime Minister and gave scope to the sharp-shooters 
of the Fourth Party. Courtney, who was never in doubt as to 
his own course, looked on the conflict with disgust and in- 
dignation. He voted for permission to affirm, and, when this 
course was forbidden by the Court, he voted for permission 
to take the oath. When this was also forbidden, he de- 
manded that the- law must be altered to allow any member 
to make an affirmation, and told his constituents that he 
could not understand how any Liberal could take part in 
excluding a duly elected representative on account of his 
atheistical opinions. A far greater anxiety for the new 
Government was the distress and discontent of Ireland, 
which was intensified by the increase of evictions and by the 
Lords' rejection of the Compensation for Disturbance Bill. 
The Land League promptly retahated by the invention of 
the boycott, and the Chief Secretary, Forster, spent the 
autumn in grapphng with hunger, outrage and despair. 
Courtney had visited Ireland in 1868, but he now determined 
to devote his autumn hohday to a tour through the disturbed 

To his sister Margaret 

September 8, 1880, — I have promised to go to Liverpool to 
open the Junior Reform Club next Thursday, and shaU probably 
leave here the day before. Being asked in this way is a great 
compliment. Lord Northbrook had undertaken to open the 
Club, but the Session lasted so long that he is only now visiting 
the Dockyards. If the reports from Penzance continue good 


I think I shall venture to run over to the west of Ireland for a 
fortnight, and I have written asking Roby whether he will go. 
The reports in the newspapers about appointments are all 
premature, and I think they may perhaps be traced to Fawcett, 
who conceived the arrangement more than a month ago. From 
what I hear my appointment as Secretary of the Treasury 
would be approved, but I doubt whether Gladstone would offer 
it to me. This is one of those offices which do not vacate a seat, 
so there would be no re-election. Last week and the week before 
I was dining in Ministerial circles — last Tuesday at Harcourt's, 
where everybody but myself was in the Ministry, and the 
previous Wednesday at Henry James', where all were Ministers 
except young Spencer and myself. The said young Spencer is Lord 
Spencer's half-brother and presumptive heir — one of the youngest 
Members of the House, who dehghts us all with his collars and 

Roby was not available for the Irish tour ; but an 
excellent substitute was found in David Wedderburn. 
Courtney's observations and reflections were recorded in two 
articles written for an American Review, and were explained 
in speeches delivered during the autumn recess. He sur- 
veyed the work of the new Government in an address at 
Liverpool. He confessed that he had not been distinguished 
for unbroken submissiveness ; but in voting against 
Ministers he had always been a sincere and helpful friend. 
No function could be more useful than that of encouraging 
them to their best efforts. No Government could be strong 
unless it was thus pressed, just as a Member of Parliament 
needed energetic, troublesome men among his constituents 
who would keep their representative in the right path. 
Despite occasional mistakes, moreover, the Ministry could 
show a very creditable record. " The late Government has 
brought us into trouble in every quarter of the world and 
left our domestic affairs in the greatest disorder. Whether 
we look to Europe, Asia, Africa, to trade at home or to the 
condition of Ireland, you find enough to reduce an incoming 
Ministry to something Uke despair." What then had the 
new Government done ? In Asia they had had the magnifi- 
cent courage to evacuate Afghanistan. Sir Bartle Frere 
was on his way back to England. In the Near East they had 


reversed the policy of their predecessors and were about to 
obtain for Montenegro her rights under the Treaty of Berlin. 
The gravest problem which now confronted them was Ireland. 
To acquiesce in whatever she asked was to treat her as foolish 
mothers treat foolish children. Under no circumstances 
could Home Rule be accepted. Peasant proprietorship was 
sometimes proposed ; but a far better plan would be the 
judicial fixing of rent, with free sale and security against 
eviction. Accompanied by a Local Government Bill it 
would remove the demand for Home Rule, and discontent 
would, he beheved, disappear. 

A week or two later, in an address to his constituents, 
he dealt more fully with the Irish question. He invited 
sympathy with the statesman who had done so much for 
Ireland in 1869 and 1870, and who now, on returning to 
office, found the country in a worse condition than ever. 
Drawing on his recent experiences in the west he described 
the uneconomic holdings, the misery, the filth, the boy- 
cotting. His prescription for the suffering patient was two- 
fold. On the one hand the arm of the executive should be 
strengthened. Habeas Corpus should be suspended where 
necessary, and fire-arms should be prohibited ; on the other 
land reform — fixity of tenure, fair rents and free sale — should 
be pushed on, local government should be developed, and 
the State should assist emigration to Canada. There was 
no need for despair and stiU less for Home Rule, which would 
reduce the country to its phght before the great famine. 
This address set forth the programme which the speaker was 
to advocate for the next twenty years. 

It was an open secret that Courtney had been offered a 
post on the formation of the Government, and his transfer 
to the Treasury Bench was universally and in some quarters 
impatiently anticipated. " I am stiU unhappy at their 
meeting Parhament with Courtney out in the cold," wrote 
Lord Acton from Cannes to Mary Gladstone on December 
14.1 Ten days later he was offered the post of Under- 
Secretary for the Home Office ; and this time the invitation 
was conditionally accepted. 

^ Letters, p. 40. 


To W. E. Gladstone 

Penzance, December 25. — Your letter was delivered to me 
yesterday evening just before I left London, and I must ask 
you to excuse me for not having replied to it on the spot. I 
am sincerely grateful to you for offering me a second time an 
opportunity of joining your Administration, and I have great 
pleasure in accepting the same, with many thanks for the kind 
consideration of your reference to Ireland. There is another 
subject to which I trust you will allow me to refer. The question 
of the Transvaal has in due course entered upon a new phase, 
now that the Boers are organised in opposition to our rule. My 
opinions on this subject remain as I expressed them near the 
end of last Session, when I urged a frank acknowledgment of 
the error of annexation, and an abandonment of the impossible 
task of coercing the Boers. Holding these views, I would ask 
to be allowed to absent myself from any division that may be 
raised on our policy in the Transvaal. I simply ask for the 
privilege of a silent abstention. 

The permission was promptly and graciously accorded. 

From W. E. Gladstone 

December 27, 1880. — I have received your note with pleasure. 
Your request about the Transvaal is, I think, altogether reason- 
able ; and, although a certain amount of inconvenience must 
always arise on both sides in such cases, I have no hesitation 
in at once acceding to it. 

" I had borne my testimony and freed my conscience," 
explained Courtney to his constituents ; " and it appeared 
to me that, having done so, there was no longer an obstacle 
to accepting office. If it were true, as the agents of the 
Government asserted, that the Boers were reconciled, 
then we should have peace. If, as I surmised, they were 
still irreconcileable, the future would declare itself." It was 
a source of keen satisfaction to the new Minister that his 
father was stiU alive to witness his success. A few weeks 
later John Courtney passed away at the age of seventy- 
seven. On his return from Penzance the new Minister 
settled down to work at the Home Office under his chief 
Sir William Harcourt. 


- To his sister Margaret 

January 3, 188 1. — Here is my first letter on official paper. 
I come over here about i p.m., that being the hour fixed by 
Harcourt, who was out of town yesterday. I have made myself 
free of the office, appointed a private secretary, had an interview 
with Sir Edward Ducane, going over the Prison Estimates with 
him and Harcourt, and otherwise transacted business. I found 
no end of letters of congratulation on Saturday evening, more 
at the Reform Club yesterday, and more at Queen Anne's Gate 
and here again to-day. 

January 12. — I am now regularly at work and cannot say 
I find it very exhausting, while it is sufficiently interesting. 
I come somewhere between 11 and 12, and if the House is sitting 
I go at 4, otherwise between 5 and 6. Work is, however, slack 
just now, as all Parliamentary business is shut off through the 
pressure of Irish work, and I doubt whether the Home Office 
will pass any Bills this session. I dined at Gladstone's this 
day week. This was not done without difficulty as I had to 
get an official uniform, and, the time being so short, I was driven 
to hire one. I found, however, so many great personages had 
hired such things before — the Prime Minister himself going there 
one afternoon for a uniform of a Captain in the Navy to wear 
as Elder Brother at a Trinity House dinner — that I was greatly 
reheved ; but I am vexed to say that I shall have to hire the 
suit again next Wednesday to dine with the Speaker — ^it being 
impossible to do the embroidery of a new coat under a fortnight. 
When I got to Gladstone's nearly all were assembled, and the 
door being then shut he read us the Queen's Speech ; he stood 
up, as indeed we were all standing, with a candle in his right 
hand and the speech in his left, and he read it Hke the Funeral 
Service. The Speaker standing close by in his black velvet 
coat and with bent head seemed chief mourner. You saw 
O'Donnell's question on Monday. I really think he did me a 
service without intending it, for when I rose to reply there was 
cheering all about, and more hearty and prolonged on account 
of this question.^ The congratulations I have received have 
been innumerable, and I think my appointment has given general 
satisfaction in the House. 

^ Question. " Whether the Under-Secretary intends this year to bring 
in a motion condemning the annexation of the Transvaal. 

Answer. " I have done that so often that I think the House must be 
in full possession of my views, which I may now allow to be tested by 
the logic of events." 



The storm which the new Minister had long foretold had 
broken out before he accepted office, though the news had 
not reached London. Gladstone's denunciations of the 
annexation of the Transvaal had naturally raised the hopes 
of the Boers that he would rescind it, and for several months 
they waited patiently for their fulfilment. The Prime 
Minister, however, reluctantly came to the conclusion that 
it was impossible to undo the past. The men on the spot 
assured him that the Boers were becoming reconciled to 
British rule ; and there was a feehng in the Cabinet, not 
indeed logical but none the less powerful, that as they had 
resolved to withdraw from Kandahar, British prestige com- 
pelled them to retain Pretoria. It was a fatal mistake, as 
Gladstone realised when the Boers rose in revolt ; and he 
promptly reverted to his earlier principle that it was neither 
right nor wise to rule over unwilling subjects. Though 
the soldiers naturally desired that the conflict should be 
fought to a finish, the Cabinet promised full self-government 
to the Transvaal if the Boers would accept the supremacy of 
the Queen, and refused to aUow the defeat of Majuba Hill to 
interrupt negotiations. 

Courtney, who had bargained for his freedom, refused 
to support the Government in the division lobby until it 
had determined to annul the annexation. Meanwhile the 
friends of the Boer cause in South Africa and Holland wrote 
to him in protest and appeal ; but, as an Under-Secretary 
can neither determine nor criticise the policy of the Govern- 
ment, he could offer nothing but advice. 

From G. J. Beeberts 

The Hague, January 22, 1881. — Our Dutch Committee is 
daily more urgently requested, partly from here but much more 
by letters from England, to intercede with the belligerent Boers. 
We are urged to persuade them that they might ask for peace, 
and especially that they might escort safely to Natal the be- 
leaguered garrisons with women and children. Now our Com- 
mittee has systematically abstained from corresponding with 
the Cape or with the Boers. We thought and think it our first 
duty to avoid anything which might endanger the cause we wish 


to serve, or give any pretext to the annexation party. On the 
other side it would be very grievous for us afterwards to think 
that we had omitted a step which might have favoured our 
cause, and which we were advised to take by our EngUsh friends. 
In every respect it must be perfectly clear that we never shall 
try to induce the Boers to lay down their arms unless we are 
absolutely sure that — after due satisfaction made and pardon 
asked — full independence (no autonomy nor protectorate) shall 
be the result. In other letters we are asked to memorialise our 
Government in order that it may offer its good services for 
mediation or the Uke. We are very wilUng to do so ; but, if 
there is no chance whatsoever that the offer will be accepted, 
it is not worth while trying. For these reasons, dear Sir, I 
venture to apply to you and beg you to indicate if we can serve 
our cause by acting in one of the above respects. 

To G. J. Beeberts 

January 26, 1881. — I find it extremely difficult to reply to 
your letter, and there is indeed one declaration in it which 
almost disposes of the possibiHty of a reply. You write " it 
must be perfectly clear that we shall never try to induce the 
Boers to lay down their arms unless we are absolutely sure that 
— after due satisfaction made and pardon asked — full independ- 
ence shaU be the result." It is at present impossible to give 
you this absolute surety, and if you make this an indispensable 
condition nothing can be done. I am, however, persuaded 
that every proof of self-control on the part of the Boers, every 
instance of regard to the rules of civiHsed war, every act of 
kindness to beleaguered garrisons or to women, would greatly 
tend to help their cause. I grieve to send you so scant a letter, 
but under the present circumstances I can do httle but long 
that the great scandal of our contest with the Boers may soon 
pass away, nor can I suggest any steps for our own adoption. 

The decision of the Liberal pilot to stick to his course in 
spite of Majuba roused his new colleague to rare enthusiasm. 
" I rejoice that the Government adhered to their proposals," 
he told his constituents. " I know no greater instance of 
Christian conduct on the part of any Government in declaring 
that the shedding of English blood should not be avenged. 
I stamp as heathenish and horrible the assertion that we 
have been humiliated because we did not insist on blood 


for blood. I say on the contrary that we have been glorified 
among nations." The resolve of the Cabinet was defended 
in cooler language by the First Lord of the Admiralty, who 
refused to accept the common view that we " took a beating " 
and afterwards treated for peace. " Negotiations for an 
honourable settlement had been begun by the Boers," 
wrote Lord Northbrook, " and accepted by us. These 
negotiations were jeopardised by our General exceeding his 
instructions. The only right course for the Government, 
though naturally unpopular, was to recognise the error of 
their General and to continue the negotiations as if that 
error had not been committed." ^ On the other hand 
Courtney never ceased to blame the Liberal Cabinet for 
causing the revolt by refusing to undo the annexation 
directly they came into power. Had his advice been 
followed there would have been no rising, no bloodshed, no 
loss of prestige and no fermenting memories of martial 
triumph in the breast of the Boers. 

Though Courtney had played no public part in the recent 
controversy his views and sympathies were generally known 
in South Africa, where they naturally found both support 
and antagonism. He was violently attacked by a British 
settler in the Transvaal named White ; and when in a 
letter to the Times he asked for proofs of the whirhng 
charges, no reply was forthcoming. Among those who 
throughout approved his attitude in South African affairs 
was the distinguished mathematician and Hebrew scholar, 
like himself a Fellow of St. John's, who as Bishop of Natal 
had won the confidence and affection of the natives in a 
degree unapproached by any other white man of his time. 

From Bishop Colenso 

August 7, 1881. — We hear by telegraph from England that 
you are likely to succeed Mr. Grant Duff at the Colonial Office. 
Most sincerely shall I rejoice if this report should turn out to 
be true. But in any case I am sure that I may congratulate 
you on the settlement of the Transvaal difficulty without further 
bloodshed. The terms of the Convention seem to be upon the 

^ Mallet, Earl Northbrook, pp. 162-3. 


whole as good for all parties — natives included — as could have 
been expected under the circumstances, though the Boers have 
control over Sikukuni's country and, I am sorry to say, have 
also been awarded a part of the Disputed Territory which was 
given to the Zulus by the Border Commission, but was taken 
away and annexed to the Transvaal by Sir Garnet Wolseley, 
which he would never have done, I beUeve, if he had not wished 
to please the Boers and get them to acquiesce in the English 
rule. However, we must be thankful that the wrong done by 
the annexation has been to so large an extent rectified, and the 
only real cause for regret is that the present Government were 
so misled by the information they received from high officials 
on the spot, that they lost the grand opportunity of carrying 
out from the first the retrocession of the Transvaal before the 
disastrous fighting took place. 

The rumour which had reached the Bishop was correct ; 
and when Mountstuart Grant Duff was appointed Governor 
of Madras in August 1881, Courtney succeeded to the vacant 
post. Now that the barometer in South Africa pointed to 
fair he had no longer any difference with the Cabinet, and 
he welcomed the change of office as affording him a wider 
opportunity of shaping large questions of policy. A further 
advantage was that his chief, Lord Kimberley, was in the 
Upper House. As the session was almost over, the Minister 
had time to famiUarise himself with his new duties during 
the recess. 

To his sister Margaret 

November 5, 1881. — Everything is going on quietly here. 
I come to the office day after day, work till six or so, and a dinner 
at the Club with Morley's Cohden for evening reading finishes 
the day. On Wednesday I dined at the Club with the said 
Morley, Herbert Spencer and Tyndall, and the four of us then 
went to the St. James's Theatre. 

At the end of his first session on the Treasury Bench the 
Minister paid his usual visit to Liskeard. Its main legisla- 
tive achievement was the Irish Land Bill, creating machinery 
for the fixing of fair rents for a term of years. The interven- 
tion of the State between landlord and tenant horrified a 
certain school of opinion, and led Lord Lansdowne, himself 


an Irish landlord, to resign his post in the Ministry. To 
Courtney, on the other hand, it appeared to open up a 
prospect of reconciliation. " It is not robbing men of their 
property," he told his constituents, " but giving men what 
is their own. It will operate as a message of peace." The 
process of improvement, however, would be slow, for nothing 
less than the conversion of the peasant into a sober and 
thrifty citizen was needed. 

Friend and foe agreed that the House of Commons was 
dominated by the personaUty of the Prime Minister ; and 
the Colonial Under-Secretary, who was far too independent 
to indulge in hero-worship, sounded a note of warning 
against leaning too heavily on the veteran commander. 
" No man deserves the conj&dence of the nation better than 
Gladstone," he declared at Liskeard ; " but though we 
must rejoice in his strength and give thanks that such a 
man has been raised to lead us, we ought to be ashamed if in 
his absence Liberal principles would be in jeopardy. I am 
not quite sure that we are not too dependent on him. We 
must struggle against the tendency to weaken the strength 
of each man's wiU as the unit of the political body and to 
make us too dependent on the leader of the hour." It was 
a curious declaration for a Minister ; but it expressed his 
hfe-long conviction that it was the duty of citizens of a 
self-governing community to think for themselves. In 
the spring of 1882 the representation of East Cornwall 
became vacant, and Courtney was strongly urged by his 
party to accept it. He stoutly refused to leave Liskeard, 
and held to his ground despite the combined onslaught of 
the Prime Minister and the Chief Whip. The contest of 
wills created a good deal of interest, and the harassing 
incident was narrated in a long letter to Penzance. 

To his sister Margaret 

March 17, 1882. — I suppose you have not been free from 
the excitement which has surrounded me for two days about 
East Cornwall. I have been able to maintain my resolution, 
to which I mean to adhere, not to leave Liskeard. When I was 
first asked on Wednesday I said no. I was against the proposal 


because I did not feel sure of winning the county, while I believed 
Bouverie would slip in for the borough. I left the House to 
escape worry, but was pursued by a note from Gladstone urging 
me to accept the invitation, to which I repUed, as before, we 
must wait for Hawke. Then Hawke ^ appeared alarmed at the 
notion of my leaving Liskeard, dead against it, and declaring 
that our best friends felt dismay at the prospect. Then an 
interview between Hawke and myself and Grosvenor, respecting 
which Hawke said to me on coming away, " that man is mad." 
Then an interview between myself and Gladstone, firm and 
courteous and even friendly, but intimating that in his opinion I 
had no choice as a member of the party and still more of the 
Government ; and I demurring and decUning. In the afternoon I 
had seen John Morley, before dinner I had a walk with Fawcett, 
and later a talk both with Chamberlain and Dilke, all of whom are 
stout in the opinion that my decision is right both as regards 
myself and the party. This morning telegrams and messages 
have been flying about from newspapers and from persons 
wanting to stand for Liskeard. I have seen Hawke again, who 
is greatly relieved and delighted. On the other hand Gladstone 
and Grosvenor are both sore, and may try to press me again, 
and it is possible — though not, I think, likely — that I may have 
to give up office, a result I should receive with great equanimity 
if not satisfaction. 

The Prime Minister gave vent to his chagrin in a brief 

From W. E. Gladstone 

March 16, 1882. — I have received your note, but I think I 
ought to say that I am grievously disappointed at its contents. 

In May 1882, despite the controversy about East Corn- 
wall, the Prime Minister appointed Courtney Secretary of 
the Treasury, a post vacated by the promotion of the ill- 
fated Lord Frederick Cavendish to the Chief Secretaryship 
for Ireland. Of the three Ministerial offices in which he 
served the latest and the last was that for which he was 
best fitted. His mathematical training and his studies in 
political economy and finance had already marked him out 
for Treasury work, and led observers to hail in him a future 

^ Chairman of the Liskeard Liberal Association. The retention of 
the seat by a Liberal justified Courtney's decision. 


Chancellor of the Exchequer. One admirer compared him 
to Comewall Lewis, " the model of a student-statesman." 
In that remote age the Treasury possessed considerable 
authority, and was staffed by men deeply imbued with 
Gladstone's conviction that its main task was to prevent 
waste and extravagance. With this spirit the new Minister 
was in full accord. The older type of official was flattered 
when the spending departments accused the Treasury of 
stinginess and obstruction, and Courtney bore the protests 
and rebukes of his Ministerial colleagues with serene com- 
placency. It was a thankless task to hold the purse-strings, 
for the Treasury never receives any gratitude from the 
pubUc ; but its work was essential to the financial health 
of the State. 

" When he became^ Secretary to the Treasury," writes 
Lord Eversley,^ " I was at the head of the Office of Works, 
and we often came into conflict on questions of expenditure 
where I thought that he exercised too rigid a control," His 
economy was naturally more appreciated by his colleagues 
in the task of guarding the national purse. " I am sorry to 
say," writes Sir Algernon West,^ " that I am the only one 
who was in high office now surviving of those who were 
brought into intimate official relations with him at that 
time. I was Chairman of the Board of Inland Revenue 
and had many opportunities of personal intercourse with 
him and of learning the opinion of Lord Welby and others, 
and I am sure that I correctly interpret their opinion, 
which coincides with my own, that we were struck not only 
by his great abiUty but by the very remarkable power he 
displayed in his thorough mastery of all the questions 
coming before the Treasury. Sir Francis Mowatt, who was 
in the office at the time, entirely agrees with what I say. 
I very distinctly recollect our sincere regret at his resignation 
of the Secretaryship." The verdict, is confirmed by the 
testimony of his old friend and colleague. Lord Fitzmaurice. 
" He soon obtained the reputation of being the sternest of 
the economists who had occupied the post, though in former 

^ Letter to the author, June 25, 1918. 
* Letter to the author, August i, 1918. 


years it had been held by Mr. Baxter and by Mr. A5ni;on, 
who were believed to have materially contributed to the 
faU of Mr. Gladstone's first administration. It became the 
joke to say that whereas formerly Members of Parliament 
appealed for gentler treatment from the Permanent Secre- 
tary, Sir Ralph Lingen, to the Parhamentary Secretary, 
now the appeal had to be from the Parhamentary Secretary 
to the tender mercies of Sir Ralph Lingen. But none the 
less I never heard any complaints made of these decisions 
being embittered by those graces of manner which had 
excited such furious bitterness at an earlier period." 

Courtney enjoyed his work and appreciated the humorous 
side of some of its incidents, one of which is preserved in the 
Diary of Grant Duff.^ At the meeting of the Breakfast 
Club on April 28, 1900, " Courtney told a story when we 
were talking about the scandalous way in which some 
municipal authorities waste the money of the ratepayers by 
quite unnecessary journeys to London. When he was 
Secretary to the Treasury a deputation from Sligo came to 
him to urge an entirely harmless change. Their wish was 
granted immediately, with many regrets that they should 
have taken the trouble to come so far about so trifling a 
concession, which a couple of letters would have settled. 
' You seem to forget,' remarked somebody aside, ' that 
to-morrow is Derby Day.' " 

The Minister never learned to suffer fools gladly, and he 
took public work too seriously to dissemble his contempt for 
Members who wasted the time or trifled with the duties 
of the House. Thus, while his competence was beyond 
dispute, he was not one of the most popular occupants of 
the Front Bench. " It is the opinion of some of his friends," 
wrote a London paper in a series of articles on " Coming 
Men," " that oflice has not altogether improved Mr. Courtney. 
If it is an exaggeration that he has become overpoweringly 
official, it is true that the official manner of the Secretary 
of the Treasury is not quite all that could be desired. It is 
not rude. It is scarcely curt. But it is irritating. It is 
not always soothing work to gratify the curiosity of the 

* Notes from a Diary, i8g6-igoi, ii. 215. 


noble army of bores, and such a man can have no sympathy 
for the small fry who think it is their duty to badger Ministers 
with interrogations on every possible topic. But he should 
seek to be personally popular." 

During the early months of his work at the Treasury the 
Financial Secretary enjoyed an unusual degree of independ- 
ence, as the Prime Minister himself discharged the functions 
of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. When the double 
burden proved too heavy for advancing years Gladstone 
resigned the post, and offered Courtney the Chairmanship 
of Committees if the new arrangement was not to his taste. 

From W. E. Gladstone 

December 8, 1882. — It is now probable that Childers will 
almost immediately assume the office of Chancellor of the 
Exchequer. I do not expect that this will surprise you, inas- 
much as I think you clearly understood on taking your present 
office that a Minister of Finance proper would shortly be ap- 
pointed. If, however, this change, which has a certain influence 
on your position (particularly under an active and skilled 
administrator), should incHne you towards quitting it, I am able 
to say that I should be happy to propose you, if you should 
desire it, as successor to Playfair in his important and difficult 
office, which you have shewn an admirable capacity to fill. 

Courtney preferred to remain a member of the Ministry. 
He was on excellent terms with his chief, who fully appreci- 
ated his accurate mind and powers of work. 

To his sister Margaret 

December 14, 1882. — On Tuesday I dined very pleasantly 
in a distinguished locality — St. James's Palace ! Algernon West, 
the Chairman of the Inland Revenue Board, has some small 
post which gives him rooms there, which Mrs. West declares 
were originally the coachman's lodgings. The Prime Minister 
was in great force. I sat in the middle of one side between him 
and his wife, and the evening passed very gaily. 

His friends would not have been surprised by further 
promotion at any moment ; but they were confident that 
he had only to wait. 


From John Scott 

Bombay, December 25, 1882. — In all the recent shif tings of 
the Ministries I thought you might have had another translation. 
But you have had so many that I must not expect any more 
yet. No man is more certain of his future, so your friends 
cannot grumble. 

In the spring of 1883 the Secretary to the Treasury 
received a proposal which proved that his financial abilities 
were recognised in the highest quarters. 

From Lord Kimherley 

May 9, 1883. — Can I induce you to accept the post of Finan- 
cial Member of the Indian Government in succession to Major 
Baring, who is to succeed Sir E. Malet in Egypt ? No one 
would, I feel sure, fill more competently than yourself the very 
important office of Finance Minister of our Indian Empire. If 
you should be disposed to entertain the offer, there are some 
poUtical matters pending in India on which it would be neces- 
sary that we should have a clear understanding before the 
appointment is made, though I apprehend we should have no 
difficulty in agreeing about them. The salary is 76,800 rupees. 
Baring's appointment is at present a secret, and, whether you 
accept or not, I must request you to be good enough not to 
mention the subject till we are ready for a public announcement. 
I write with the full concurrence of Mr. Gladstone and Childers. 

The salary was high, the task would have been congenial, 
and he was on friendly terms with the Viceroy, Lord Ripon. 
But he enjoyed his work at the Treasury, and it was generally 
agreed that his admission to the Cabinet, to which his office 
was the recognised stepping-stone, could not be long delayed. 
To leave England at such a time for five years was frankly 
impossible ; and he declined the offer with thanks. 

Members of a Ministry who are outside the charmed 
circle of the Cabinet, though not consulted in the determina- 
tion of policy, are expected to support it not only in the 
division lobby but in the country ; and if they are unable 
to do so, they are counselled to hold their tongue. No one 
ever accused the Secretary to the Treasury of disloyalty to 


the Government ; but on his autumn visits to his constitu- 
ency he spoke his mind freely on pubHc affairs. The 
Liberal party had returned to power in 1880 with high 
hopes of useful service and with enthusiastic confidence in 
its chief ; but, to the chagrin of reformers, the attention of 
the Ministry was distracted by a ceaseless struggle with the 
forces of disorder in Ireland and by recurring crises in Egypt 
and the Sudan. In regard to the former Courtney had 
nothing but approval for the policy of the Government, 
both in its repressive and its remedial aspects. He watched 
the operation of the Land Act of 1881 with eager interest 
and was loud in praise of its results. " It is a monument of 
pohtical genius," he declared in 1883. " The longer it is 
tried, the more it is appreciated. It is uprooting the cause 
of trouble." On his visits to his constituents, whatever 
other topic was dominant he never omitted to deal with the 
Irish problem. The reform of County Government already 
occupied a leading place in his programme, and he con- 
tinued to urge its claims on both parties until it was carried 
out by Mr. Gerald Balfour. He lost no opportunity of 
reiterating his opposition to Home Rule. " We are as 
man and wife," he argued ; " we are one, not two." Un- 
fortunately Nationahst Ireland did not think so ; and 
before very long he was to learn that " the cause of 
trouble " was much too deep to be eradicated by the fixing 
of judicial rents. 

Courtney had strongly supported a poHcy of military 
coercion in the Near East with a view to emancipating the 
Balkan nationalities who, after obtaining their independence, 
were expected to look after themselves. But while thus 
approving intervention for a disinterested and strictly 
hmited object, he looked with suspicion on any steps that 
might lead to the annexation of foreign territory or to 
the further increase of British responsibiUties. If British 
subjects chose to lend their money at high interest to an 
extravagant oriental potentate, they must bear the con- 
sequences and not expect the British Empire to pull the 
chestnuts out of the fire for them. Turkey, he beHeved, 
ought to be broken up as quickly as possible, and its com- 


ponent parts should then govern themselves. For this 
reason he had disapproved the deposition of the Khedive 
Ismail in 1879 by his suzerain at the instigation of England 
and France. They had recognised and thereby increased 
the power of the Sultan. Why could they not have left 
the Egyptians alone and allowed them to stew in their own 
juice ? The deposition of Ismail, whether right or wrong, 
brought no more than temporary relief to the situation ; 
for his son and successor Tewfik was too weak to cope with 
the rising nationaUst discontent which found a leader in 
Arabi. France was no less interested in the peace and 
solvency of Egypt than Great Britain ; but Gambetta, who 
was eager to co-operate in necessary measures of coercion, 
was succeeded by the less adventurous Freycinet, who 
desired to confine French action to a defence of the Suez 
Canal. Even this limited risk was not to the taste of the 
French Chamber, and in the summer of 1882 Great Britain 
intervened alone. The Prime Minister was no enthusiast 
for his own poUcy, and not a few of his followers in Parha- 
ment and in the Press were either lukewarm supporters or 
avowed opponents. 

To Miss Potter 

July 12, 1882. — I am much dissatisfied with Egypt, and not 
at all easy about my position. There was a short discussion 
this afternoon when Lawson spoke, but it came to nothing. 

July 20. — The Prime Minister has announced his intention 
of asking for a vote of credit on Monday, in other words for 
money to support some kind of intervention in Egypt. This is 
not the worst that could have happened, as it would have been 
intolerable if the Sultan had been brought in to resume a direct 
authority. It is better that we should undertake the task than 
leave it to the Pashas from Constantinople ; but the outlook 
is very dark. I am more and more drawn to the conclusion 
that we ought to have allowed the Khedive and Arabi to settle 
their relative power among themselves, simply taking care of 
the Canal as a great international highway. I do not say there 
are not excuses or even justification for what we have done ; 
only I feel the wiser course is the one I have pointed out. Since 
I saw you Mr. Bright has left the Ministry, but you know his 
views are not mine. He objects to aU war as wicked. I think 


wars are sometimes just and necessary. His defection will set 
a few members talking who have hitherto been silent, but the 
criticism of the Government poUcy in the House of Commons 
is very feeble. I am told that all the newspapers which are 
specially read by artisans in London joined last week in condemn- 
ing the bombardment of Alexandria. My friend Scott, like 
most of them from Egypt, incHnes to the opinion that we ought 
to have taken action earlier. 

July 22. — I have had a long talk with John Morley. He 
is of my opinion in condemning altogether the policy we have 
pursued and is very uncomfortable about it ; but he thinks 
there is nothing to be done just now but to insist, as far as we 
can, agcdnst any schemes of occupation and annexation. 

September 19, 1882, Berlin. — It was in Moscow that I read 
the telegraphic announcement of the complete defeat of Arabi ; 
and now I hear that the luckless man is a prisoner of war and 
that Wolseley is at Cairo. The Ministers in Cabinet Council 
may well have cheered at the result ; and I hope now the struggle 
is over they will be wise enough not to accept the government 
of the country nor to bind themselves permanently to the 
Khedive. We shall have done all we are in honour bound to 
do if, after freeing him, we give him a fair chance. No doubt 
the issue of the expedition will render the Government stronger, 
at least for a time. Did you hear of that cynical mot of Sir 
WiUiam Harcourt ? "At last we have done a popular thing ; 
we have bombarded Alexandria." 

On returning from Russia Courtney hurried down to 
Cornwall and delivered an address at Torpoint. The 
Government, he declared, were justified in suppressing 
Arabi, who was no true representative of Egyptian nation- 
ality and was endeavouring to establish a military tyranny. 
We should, however, be culpable if, after overthrowing this 
tyranny, we did not respect national feeling and allow 
Egypt to govern herself. Not government by Turkey, or 
Arabi, or the Powers, but Egypt for the Egyptians was the 
policy to pursue. The Prime Minister rightly desired to 
co-operate with Europe in placing the country imder a 
European guarantee, supplying it with representative 
institutions and then leaving it to work out its own salva- 
tion. We should tell Tewfik that he must not expect to 
be rescued a second time from domestic opposition, for we 


could never consent to uphold a ruler against the will of 
his people. We should look after the Canal, make a ring 
round Egj^t so that no other Power should interfere in 
its domestic politics, and let the inhabitants of the Nile 
Valley stew in their own juice. To the surprise of the 
world we had withdrawn from Abyssinia after the war of 
1868 without annexations. If we now withdrew from 
Egypt, after setting up a free Government, we should not 
have intervened in vain. Now was the time to show that 
England wished to promote the freedom of other countries 
and had no desire to annex a yard of territory. The proof 
of our disinterestedness would be completed if the cost of 
the war were to be met as far as possible by the bond- 
holders instead of by the fellaheen. 

The speech, with its clear-cut policy and its vigorous 
phrasing, was widely reported and eagerly discussed during 
the autumn recess. Chamberlain wrote to congratulate him 
on his frankness. Lord Sahsbury referred to him as a dis- 
tinguished man who stood on the threshold of the Cabinet, 
and Lord Granville echoed that he was undoubtedly a man 
of great knowledge and great ability. Sir Wilfrid Lawson, 
who had offered uncompromising opposition to intervention, 
broke into the vigorous doggerel of which he was the 
acknowledged master. 

{Vide Courtney's Speech at Plymouth) 

At last we hear from Courtney's lips 

The Governmental plan. 
Mysterious are all thy ways. 

Thou wondrous Grand Old Man ! 

Let quidnuncs talk of what they please — 

This, that, and t'other thing — 
The wisest course the statesman sees 

It is, to make a ring. 

That ring must be composed of all 

The bravest and the best, 
Bring Baker Pasha from the East 

And Wolseley from the West. 


Bring Sepoys from the Indian plains. 

Bring Scots from moor and fell. 
Bring Royal Dukes from Windsor towers 

And Guardsmen from Pall Mall. 

We fought like heroes all men knew. 

Hurled death from all our triggers. 
Retrieved the status ante quo 

And killed five thousand niggers. 

That traitor Arabi we nailed — 

Loud every steeple clanged — 
And though all evidence has failed 

We mean to have him hanged. 

The whip's at work, the gaols axe full. 

The bastinado too ; 
Thank God the coupons though are paid 

Whenever they fall due. 

On his next visit to his constituents early in the follow- 
ing year the Minister reiterated his policy and replied to 
his critics. His phrase " stewing in their own juice " had 
been quoted and reprobated ; but its author was Bismarck, 
and its meaning was that the Egyptians should govern 
themselves and that we should limit our commitments by 
setting up a power that could take care of itself. The advice 
he had tendered at Torpoint had been followed. There 
was no thought of restoring the power of the Sultan. The 
Canal was to be open to ships of war, but no military 
operations were to be allowed in its waters. Lord Dufferin 
had drawn up a scheme for the representation of the people 
which would serve very well as a first step. We had now 
done enough both for the Khedive and the bondholders and 
must resist further temptation. " I am told that England 
cannot tolerate anarchy in Eg5rpt. Why not ? We tolerate 
it in Mexico and other parts of the world. This notion that 
we must go anywhere to prevent anarchy must be fought 
against, for when we go to prevent anarchy we create it. 
The whole excuse of many of our conquests has been anarchy 
requiring intervention, and the excuse for maintaining them 
is that anarchy must follow our withdrawal. I hope there 
are still some few of us left in England who believe in the 


old-fashioned doctrine of the Liberal party, the doctrine 
of non-intervention. We should not interfere unless a short 
and swift intervention would remove the cause of the 
disease, which being removed, the country would be left 
to take care of itself again. And that is the defence of our 
intervention in Egypt." 

The views of the Secretary of the Treasury were shared 
by the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary, who deplored 
the Egyptian entanglement and honestly desired to escape 
from its meshes. But though the bondholders had few 
friends among the British democracy, the Cabinet could 
not leave them to sink or swim ; and the promise to with- 
draw was contingent on the restoration of order and stable 
government. Sir Evel5m Baring's task proved to require 
more time than had been expected ; and long before it was 
accompHshed a school of thought became dominant in 
Great Britain which repudiated the doctrine of non-interven- 
tion and evacuation, and plunged boldly into the game of 
Weltpolitik with its prizes and its risks. 




On March 15, 1883, Courtney was married to Miss Kate 
Potter. Though his work for the Times had brought him 
a good salary, there was no considerable surplus available 
after meeting the needs of his family ; and by the time he 
crossed the threshold of middle age he had resigned himself 
to a bachelor existence. His Ufe was filled with congenial 
occupation, and he possessed not only devoted brothers 
and sisters but a wide circle of friends. Under these 
circimastances it was natural that a considerable period 
should elapse between the first meeting with his future 
wife and the dawning conviction that his happiness was in 
her keeping. 

From her childhood Miss Potter had enjoyed the privilege 
of mixing in the wide world of society and poHtics. Her 
father was a Manchester man, the son of the first Member for 
Wigan in the Reformed Parliament.^ Turning in early life 
from law to business Richard Potter joined the leading firm of 
timber-merchants in Gloucester. When the news of the 
sufferings of the allied armies m the Crimea reached England 
he proposed that they should be provided with wooden 
huts, which he and his partner Price were ready to supply. 
The plan was approved not only by the British Government 
but by Napoleon III., who sent for him and gave him an 
order on the spot. The flourishing firm established branches 
in Grimsby and Barrow ; but timber was only one depart- 

"^ See Georgina Meinertzhagen, From Ploughshare to Parliament, 
chap. XV. 



ment of Potter's business activities. He was at different 
times a Director and later Chairman of the Great Western 
Railwaj^ a President of the Grand Trunk Railway of 
Canada, and a Director of the Hudson's Bay Company. 
While Price was a Liberal Member of Parliament, Potter, 
who began as a Liberal, had become a Peelite ; and though 
his support of Free Trade drove him for a time mto the 
Liberal camp, he returned to the Conservative party when 
the danger of Protection was removed. He stood for 
Gloucester in 1862, but was beaten by 28. Though he 
distrusted Disraeli scarcely less than Gladstone he was an 
active worker and speaker for the Conservative cause in 
Gloucestershire till he was stricken with paralysis in 1885. 

In 1844 Richard Potter married a Miss Heyworth of 
Liverpool, a clever girl with keen intellectual tastes. Their 
only son died in infancy, but nine daughters were bom and 
grew to womanhood. At Standish House, near Stroud, 
and in London, where their hospitable parents often took a 
house for the season, the girls enjoyed unusual opportunities 
of meeting interesting people. Herbert Spencer, a friend 
of Richard Potter from boyhood, was a frequent guest, and 
men were glad to accept invitations to the lively house- 
parties. Thus all the daughters married, and several of 
them became the partners of men who achieved distinction 
in pubUc life. 

In the autumn of 1875 Kate, the second daughter, after 
the unprofitable excitements of a series of London seasons, 
resolved to help Octavia Hill in her self-imposed task of 
reformatory rent-collector in Whitechapel. " Miss Potter 
has been staying here," wrote Miss Hill to her friend Samuel 
Barnett, vicar of St. Jude's. " She is very bright and 
happy, extremely capable, and has been through a good 
deal in her Ufe, though she is young. She seems to fit in 
among us very well." ^ In 1878 the vicar reported on her 
work : " The common lodgings and nightly lodging-houses 
which abound in this parish are filled with people of the 
lowest description, who, herded together, are beyond the 
reach of any influence. Fourteen of these houses have 

1 C. E. Maurice, Life of Octavia Hill, p. 339. 


this year come into possession of a friend of Miss Octavia 
Hill. It was delightful to enter the places of which one 
had such sad memories, to order the removal of dirt, the 
renovation of the broken doors and plaster, the admission 
of light through new windows. It is more deUghtful to 
know that in these houses respectable people are now 
living, visited weekly by a lady who is not only the rent- 
collector but a friend to help by wise counsel in time of need, 
and with sympathy for them as creatures capable of the 
fullest life." " For eight years," adds Mrs. Bamett, " Miss 
Potter worked with us, bringing in her wake hosts of friends, 
as well as two sisters. Miss Potter's friends were not of 
the ' goody ' sort, but were people holding the world's 
plums, of wealth, high social position, and posts of national 
responsibility ; yet she brought them all to tender their 
meed of service to the poor, and compelled them to face 
conditions usually hidden from the comfortable." ^ 

After pitching her tent in Great College Street, West- 
minster, in 1877, Miss Potter was at home to her friends on 
Tuesdays ; and as her rooms were within a stone's throw of 
the Houses of Parliament Members often dropped in during 
the session. As a girl she had naturally imbibed the 
conservatism of her parents ; but Whitechapel had con- 
vinced her that the iUs of the body politic required a more 
drastic surgery, and her political friends were mainly chosen 
from the Liberal camp. Among them was Joseph Chamber- 
lain, who could always find time to write chatty letter?. 
Her Journal in 1879 records : " Mr. Leonard Courtney also 
one of my visitors in Great College Street." A note added 
in 1910 comments on the beginning of their friendship : 
" We met first some year or so before at dinner at the 
Crackanthorpes', and I was told he was an important man on 
the Times ; but I don't remember much about that meeting. 
Then about 1878 came one of those interesting evening 
parties at the Tennants' in Richmond Terrace, famous for 
the two beautiful daughters, Dolly and Eveljn — subjects 
of MiUais's famous pictures ' Yes or No ' and ' Blue Beads/ 
and famous for a collection of great or at any rate known 

^ Life of Canon Barneit, i. 106. 


men and women. Huxley was talking to me and denoun- 
cing a manifesto in the Times of that morning or± Beacons- 
j&eld's Afghan policy or some such question — denouncing it 
with great vigour of language. When he had expended 
his eloquence, a voice at my elbow remarked quietly, ' That's 
a pity, for I wrote it,' and there was Leonard Courtney. 
I burst into irresistible and I fear rather noisy laughter, 
and Huxley said, ' A weak man would retreat, but I won't,' 
and the incident ended in good temper. But Leonard got 
introduced to me that evening. He said afterwards the 
honest laugh struck him, and soon after he called." 

The stages of the friendship are marked by the entries 
which recur with growing frequency in the Journal. 

Easter, 1880. — Return to London (from a winter in Egypt 
with the Barnetts and Herbert Spencer) to work and am pressed 
into taking a sort of superintendence of all the Whitechapel 
Houses. The Barnetts came back warmer friends than ever. 
Meet Leonard Courtney in Queen's Gate looking radiant after 
his election and the great Liberal victory. He dines with us 
and I like him better than ever. 

Dance at Prince's Gardens. Henry Hobhouse comes at my 
invitation and is introduced to Maggie. Sudden fancy, and 
after a week or two they are engaged. We all like him. Picnic 
on the river, H. Hobhouse, Daveys and L. Courtney (a long 
happy day with him). 

October. — I return to Great College Street and find to my 
dismay that the drains are suspected. A good-bye visit from 
L. Courtney. 

Miss Potter moved to a larger house close by at 26 
Grosvenor Road, which her father took for her, and con- 
tinued her Tuesday gatherings. 

January 188 1. — Mr. Rathbone and L. C. came to tea, and I 
meet the latter soon after at dinner at the Tennants', 

An invitation to the new Minister to spend the short 
Easter recess at Standish marked a new milestone on the 
road to intimacy, and was accepted with pleasure. 


To Miss Potter 

15 Queen Anne's Gate, 
April 4, 1 88 1. 

My dear Miss Potter — Your invitation is very enticing, 
so that I cannot say no to it all at once. Indeed if I can I wiU 
act yes. Will you tell me within what days you propose to be 
at Standish, so that I may arrange to join your party if it prove 
possible ? — Yours very faithfully, Leonard Courtney. 

The visit was a great success and brought the friends 
nearer together. 


Easter, 1881. — My party at Standish. Mr. Spencer, L. C. and 
others. What a happy week it was ! One of the pleasantest bits 
of social enjoyment I have ever had and just tinged towards the 
end with something a Httle stronger than social feeUng. I was 
a bit anxious as to how my friends would get on together, and 
whether one of them would not be bored by a whole week in 
the country. But all went charmingly. L. C. evidently enjoyed 
his visit to my great deHght. What walks we had altogether 
through the woods ; and one last one I had alone with L. C. 

The visit gave no less pleasure to the guest. 

To his sister Margaret 

Standish House, Stonehouse, April 20, 188 1. — Herbert 
Spencer came by the same train. There is plenty of room. 
The country is very beautiful. We are on the slope of a hiU 
overlooking the valley of the Severn, the river itself looking hke 
a bright cloud on the horizon. A great plain Ues between us 
and the river, full of meadows and orchards. There are hills 
all about, which, however, are for the most part the edges of 
the higher table-land below which he the Severn valley and 
its tributary valleys. Villages are numerous ; the houses mostly 
stone built (Bath stone) and with many good architectural 
traditions, so that they are at once substantial and pleasant to 
look upon. We are enjoying ourselves very much. After break- 
fast I am allowed to retreat to the study to write, read news- 
papers or work, for I have a few papers with me. In the after- 
noon walks or drives. In the evening much talk. A httle 
music now and then. Herbert Spencer is, as you know, one of 
the most opinionative and argumentative of men, but we have 
not had, and are not likely to have, any coUisions. 

jx MARRIAGE 183 

A month later Miss Potter enjoyed a visit to the Private 
View of the Academy with Herbert Spencer and Leonard 


The Grosvener Gallery next day with L. C. and tea at the 
Albemarle afterwards. A very happy summer follows. Many 
meetings at little parties and picnics with L. C, and I get to 
count more and more on my friend, though without looking for 
any very definite result from my friendship. I am deUghted to get 
an invitation to dine with him and his sisters at the Albemarle. 
I sit between him and Mr. John Morley, with whom I am much 
taken. Mr. Spencer's picnic at St. George's HiU, — the Huxleys, 
Hookers and others, and my friend in a white suit ! The day 
before I leave London L. C. makes me very happy by coming 
to tell me of his approaching appointment to the Colonial Office. 
I cannot find many words to congratulate him, but there is some 
silent feehng as we part. 

A visit to the Ladies' Gallery proved less delectable 
than had been expected, for the principal attraction was 

To Miss Potter 

July 27, 1881. 

My dear Miss Potter — You need not have been disappointed 
on Monday. The debate was very good and there was no 
necessity for my speaking. I was disappointed last night. I 
dined at the Rathbones' and you were not there, which was very 
vexatious, especially as there was an empty chair on my left. 
I beUeve you dined there last Friday, when also I was invited 
but could not go. What cross purposes ! — I am reluctant to 
say good-bye, Leonard Courtney. 

That such a friendship must either terminate or march 
forward to its appointed goal was now becoming obvious 
to both parties, and Courtney began to draw back. 


November and December. — Rather sad and dreary time in 
London. My friend comes not to see me and even appears to 
avoid natural opportunities of doing so. I get more and more 
perplexed and troubled. At last I come to the conclusion that 


something has interfered with his friendship for me, and I must 
give up thinking of it if my health and work are not to suffer. 
I go down to Standish resolved to get over it. 

Christinas, Standish. — ^A very pleasant family party. How 
we teased Mr. Spencer into kissing Beatrice under a bit of mistle- 
toe and put a fool's cap out of a cracker on his philosophical 
head ! I forgot my own troubles for the time, and came back 
to London ready to face the world and work again. But this 
mood did not last long. 

January 1882. — ^A talk with Mrs. Bamett about L. C. She 
asks me to meet him at dinner on January 30. I cannot resist. 
We talk together a Uttle looking at a sketch of Israels', when we 
arrange to see his pictures together the next day. How I enjoy 
that morning with my friend over those pathetic pictures, and 
then we walk home together as far as Downing Street. I feel 
that he Ukes me, but feel also that there are difficulties in his 
own mind, and I recognise that my own feeHngs are so much 
engaged that the only thing to do is to wait patiently for the 
solution which time may bring, and meanwhile to enjoy his 

So things went on till the opening of the Whitechapel Exhibi- 
tion on April 4 (my birthday), where I heard him speak for the 
first time. It was a solemn speech for the opening of an art 
exhibition, and it impressed me much, with its earnest questions 
as to the aims and objects and future of man's hfe. 

A few days later Miss Potter's mother died, and in the 
following month she asked her friend to visit her. 

From Miss Potter 

May 16, 1882. — If you could spare half an hour between this 
and next Saturday, when I go down to Standish for ten days, 
I should so Uke to see you. When one has gone through some 
great event which creates in one a whole world of new thoughts 
and feeHngs one seems to want one's friends more than ever to 
help one to solve the problems and put things in their right 
places and proportions. From those few words you said at 
the Whitechapel Exhibition you must have thought much about 
that great mystery of death which has now come so near to us. 
I wonder whether people ever do reaUse death in the least till 
it comes to them personally, and then leaves them gazing blankly 
into a great cloud of darkness ; and then how astonishingly quickly 
life reasserts itself and one throws oneself into its interests. I 


am thinking of other things already, and among them your 
recent change of position ^ has interested me much. I suppose 
I ought to congratulate you, but I am not sure ! You will not 
now feel as if you were ruhng the Empire ; but perhaps that 
had gone on long enough and you were getting too " Imperial " 
in tendency. 

To Miss Potter 

May 17. 

My dear Miss Potter — If you will be at home to-morrow 
evening at six I will come and see you. I was much distressed 
at the end of Easter week to read of the great blow that had 
fallen upon you. I could not help thinking of the same time 
last year when we had spent such happy days at Standish. We 
may and must forget the distress of separation, but we need not 
forget those that have left us. I hope that you are returning 
to your work again. When I heard of your loss my first, or 
nearly my first thought was a hope that you would not have to 
give up the work to which you have set yourself. — I remain, my 
dear Miss Potter, always yours faithfully, 

Leonard Courtney. 

When the friends met on May 18 the reserve that for 
many a dreary month had set a seal on their lips melted 
away. The discovery was a joyful surprise to both, for 
neither had sounded the depth of the affection which filled 
the other's heart. " I learned long since that life is subject 
to severe conditions." wrote Leonard Courtney the same 
evening, " and I discovered that for me I must live and die 
alone. Friendship I could enjoy, and some dear friends 
I have had ; but beyond this I could not hope." The 
new relationship had come so suddenly and indeed so 
unexpectedly that they resolved to keep it secret except 
from some of the sisters till they had time to reflect how 
soon they could afford to marry. A few days later Miss 
Potter left for Standish, and the Minister set off on his usual 
Whitsun jaunt to Paris. 

1 His appointment as Financial Secretary to the Treasury. 


To Miss Potter 

Paris, May 30. 
My dear Kate — My visit here will be shorter than usual, 
and it has had a vein of thought running through it of a novel 
character. We crossed in lovely weather. Mr. Lionel Robinson, 
who knows nearly everybody, has taken me this evening to 
dine with M. Lockroy and M. Naquet, two of the advanced 
Radicals in the Chamber. These deputies talked more reason- 
ably than I had expected, but I doubt whether France will 
soon be fairly settled. This wretched Egyptian business dis- 
turbs them, and in the worst form, for it excites their worst 
vices of covetousness and vanity. But you must not think I 
have been occupied with poUtics. I have not seen an EngHsh 
paper since Saturday, and my principal occupation has been 
seeing pictures. Now I must say good-bye, but not for long. 
I hope I shall find my friend very happy. 

From Miss Potter 

June 7. 

Dearest Friend — Sunday is such a long way off that I 
must write you a httle Une between ; only you must not. answer 
it if you are busy. I suppose being Wednesday you will be 
dining out and seeing lots of people. For one reason and only 
one I am sorry not to have been going out this summer, and 
that is that I should Hke to see whether you look the same to 
me as you used to do in society. I should not mind your talking 
to any one else as much as you liked, because I should know 
that sometimes I had nicer talks than they ever had. 

An idea has been running through my head, — a very low 
idea, for it is connected with public-houses and beer. I believe 
that the blood-poisoning stuff that is put into it is responsible 
for the worst part of the drunkenness and violence in London. 
Why should not an act be passed against adulteration ? And I 
wonder whether it would be possible to take a public-house in 
some low street and sell good beer and manage it efficiently. 
Some of these days I think I shall go to one of the great brewers 
who are so fond of subscribing to charities and ask them to put 
me into one of their pubhc-houses and see if I can't make it pay. 
The teetotallers are too narrow to take the whole world in. I 
am not sure that better pubhc-houses would not do something 
to aUay the drink fiend. Would you mind seeing my name up 
over a beer shop in Whitechapel ? — Your affectionate friend, 

Kate Potter 
(Licensed to sell beer and spirits). 


To Miss Potter 

June 9. 

Dearest Kate — Your imagination amuses me, pursuing me 
to evening parties ; but I was not at a party on Wednesday. 
I had an invitation to Mrs. Jacob Bright 's ; but I took my 
sisters to hear Tannhduser at the German Opera, I am much 
in favour of the Gothenburg system of public-house licensing 
which would secure most, if not all, you aim at. When I was 
at Gothenburg three years ago I made many inquiries and thought 
it had done good and could here. Chamberlain, as you know, 
took up the plan before he came into the House and proposed 
it in his first session, but has dropped it — more's the pity. We 
shall hear of it again. 

At the end of the session the engagement was made 
public, and Miss Potter's choice was ratified by her father 
and sisters. 

Front Mrs. Meinertzhagen 

August 29. — I believe Kate has every prospect of happi- 
ness before her, and I need not say that we all think she 
deserves it. I cannot think how she has escaped matrimony 
so long. I hope very much that you will Hke your new 
relations as well as they are prepared to Uke you. You will 
find some crotchety old Tories amongst them whom you may 
influence a little towards the right way of thinking. You must 
be quite prepared to be taken possession of by our large family. 
Any new member is drawn into it with wonderful rapidity, 
and in your case we shall not be a little proud of our new 

The tidings were welcomed with equal pleasure by such 
members of the Courtney family as had not already heard 
of it and by the friends of both parties. 

From Herbert Spencer 

December 3, 1882. — The contents of your note gave me much 
satisfaction. I should think it but rarely happens that in such 
relations there is found greater community of thought and 
feeling and general aims than exists between you and Mr. 


Courtney. I augur well, too, from the long-continued intimacy 
which has given each so good an opportunity of knowing the 
other. I wish you all the happiness you so well deserve, and 
see no reason to doubt that you will have it. 

From John Morley 

October 23. — I always think it half impertinent to offer 
happy people congratulations. But you know with what real 
pleasure and confident good wishes I heard of this great venture 
of a friend whom I have long held in such affectionate regard. 
It is the great venture after all, but you have both left Httle 
to chance, if the union of good and proved characters means 
certainty of happiness. This is rather solemn phrasing, but 
marriage is not altogether without solemnity after all. Anyhow 
I wish you aU good things — both of you — and hope that you 
will admit his friends to a share of cordial friendship with his 
new companion. 

From Joseph Chamberlain [to L. H. Courtney) 

October 18. — Morley has just been here who told me of your 
engagement. Will you allow me most heartily and sincerely 
to congratulate you — first on the event and above all on your 
choice ? My acquaintance with Miss Potter has only been a 
short one, but I like her so much that I hope I may know and 
like her more as your wife. When does the marriage come off ? 

A few days after the announcement of the engagement 
the Minister sailed from Hull to St. Petersburg, in pursuit 
of a long-cherished desire to see something of Russia. 

To Miss Potter 

St. Petersburg, September 3. — I arrived here yesterday 
and went to the Embassy for letters. I found one from the 
Prime Minister. It was very characteristic. It was meant 
to suggest (perhaps a reproof) that I had gone rather far away 
and should at least keep myself within range of post and tele- 
graph. He adds in a postscript, " I do not write with the desire 
of moving anything from my shoulders to yours, but from a 
sense of the great value of your judgment and co-operation in 
affairs." I am going to write him to say that I always intended 


to be back in England by the end of September and could return 
at any time in four days. The absurdity of the letter is that 
my judgment, however valuable, is never called into account 
in anything of pressing importance. 

The great attraction of the capital was the Hermitage, 
where the traveller rejoiced in the Rembrandts and Van- 
dykes ; and he was interested to see the Tsar and Tsarina 
returning from the festival of St. Alexander Nevski, and to 
hear them loudly cheered in the streets. 

To Miss Potter 

Berlin, September 19. — I was extremely interested in 
Moscow. The situation of the Kremlin is very fine and the 
buildings in it make a striking ensemble, yet they have in- 
dividually no beauty. The most bizarre of all the churches 
was called by Napoleon a mosque. I was reminded in parts 
of the town of Lucknow, where the architecture which Akbar 
and the Persians brought to Delhi and Agra came into contact 
with the native architecture of India and produced a mongrel 
style without the merits of either. I went twice to the Exhibi- 
tion, where several rooms were full of pictures by Russian artists 
of to-day. Verestchagin was not represented by any of his 
great pictures, and I understood he is out of favour because 
he shows the ugly side of war. 

As the marriage was fixed for the following Easter, it 
was necessary to find a home. House-hunting proved less 
of a torment than usual, and a pretty, old red-brick mansion 
in Che)me Walk, with a view across the river and a pleasant 
garden behind, exactly met their wishes in respect of size, 
rent and situation. " I think it was a November afternoon 
when we happened on it," wrote Lady Courtney thirty-six 
years later, " in one of our Saturday walks during our 
engagement — exploring walks, to see where we should live. 
I had thought we might have started in the bright little 
modem house in Grosvenor Road, with a river view of its 
own too — a house I had taken on a twenty-one year lease, 
thinking I should never marry. Two friends shared it with 
me as my tenants. But no ! ' Very nice, but it was not 
for him.' His lodgings had always been in some old house. 


So we turned to Chelsea and Cheyne Walk. We had 
indeed been over No. 26, with a very large garden, but we 
doubted about it. Then we saw the board up at No. 15, 
and the fine iron gate at once attracted him. When the 
door opened the good spacious staircase settled the question. 
' This is our house/ he said. I suggested that rooms were 
important and must be carefully considered, as we could 
not live on the staircase. But he was sure that staircase 
implied the main quahties we wanted ; and on the whole 
it did. To be sure the present pantry was a coal hole ; 
the panelled rooms were all covered with canvas and paper 
and the floors sloped about unevenly. But there was an 
air about it, an air of dignity, of repose, of welcome. 
Leonard felt a house, was very sensitive to its atmosphere, 
and he loved this one. We took it and set about alterations, 
stripping the drawing-room of its canvas and paper and 
restoring the old panelling and putting up a beautiful 
overmantel. And then the furnishing began and all the 
planning where his beloved pictures, prints and blue china 
should go. How we enjoyed it ! It was practically aU 
his. My share was the useful commonplace things. Some 
years after we built out the dining-room and merged part 
of the old room into the smaU hbrary, thus getting two 
large and beautiful rooms on the ground floor. Later still 
my husband planned and carried out one or two ideas he 
had for the front of the house which gave him great pleasure. 
First came a fountain in the httle front garden which was 
and is a great joy to our small neighbours, rich and poor. 
We began with gold fish, but that was too great a tempta- 
tion and we had to give them up. Then came the sundial 
— an old one fixed on the front of the house. The motto 
on it was his choice — ' Lead, kindly light.' But his biggest 
venture was the two pairs of sculptured heads — Sir Thomas 
More and Erasmus on one panel, Carlyle and Mazzini on 
the other." 

Most of the Ministers gave presents to their colleague, 
and 112 Members of the House of Commons, subscribing a 
guinea each, presented a grand piano, a pair of lamps and 
a tea-urn. Among the presents to the bride was an offering 


from her East-end tenants. The marriage took place at 
St. Jude's, Whitechapel, and William Courtney supported 
his brother as best man. The address was delivered by 
Samuel Bamett. 


March 15, 1883. — Our marriage. The church crowded with 
poor people, to most of whom I was known and many of whom 
I knew. Breakfast in St. Jude's Schools with a hundred of my 
poor people and about forty others — all my sisters and their 
husbands, Margaret, Louise and William Courtney, Mr. Spencer, 
the John Morleys, Mr. Roby, and of course the dear Barnetts. 

" March 15," wrote the Vicar after the ceremony, " will 
be long remembered by the many who on that day followed 
their friend with kindly thoughts into her new life, and 
shared the first meal which she took with her husband. 
We shall not forget her, and she, I know, will not forget 
us." " No, indeed," adds Mrs. Bamett, " that wedding is 
not forgotten — the dignified happiness of the bridegroom, 
the beauty of the bride's gown, the palms and the flowers 
in the church, the Vicar's address, the height of the Bus- 
zard's cake, how Mr. Herbert Spencer behaved during the 
service, why Mr. John Morley looked so grave, the ladies' 
dresses, the number of carriages, the dainty breakfast 
served in the big schoolroom, all so carefully arranged that 
without fuss or patronage the coster sat side by side with 
the Member of Parliament, and the overworked mother 
enjoyed the food she had not cooked, while she talked and 
listened to the ' quality ' who had handed her to her seat. 
Was it bizarre, forced and fanciful ? No ! for all the guests, 
however far apart in mental and social degree, were united 
by their love and respect for the bride." ^ 

The honeymoon, severely limited by the Easter recess, 
was spent at Longfords, the Gloucestershire home of a 
sister of the bride, and in Devon, and on their return the 
couple settled at 15 Cheyne Walk, where they were destined 
to spend thirty-five years together. Whitsuntide was spent 
in Paris, and in June Courtney took his wife to Cambridge 

^ Life of Canon Bamett, i. 107. 


and showed her his old haunts in St. John's, including 
the Fellows' Garden, of which he always kept the key. It 
was a busy season for the bride. " Everybody asks us to 
dinner," she records in her Journal, " and I go to many 
large receptions and am introduced to more people than I 
can remember." After the rising of ParUament in August 
they had a quiet fortnight to themselves in London, where 
the Minister finished up his Treasury work, followed by 
visits to Standish, " bright, sunny and cheerful, Mr. Spencer 
and bowls," and Hadspen (the home of Henry Hobhouse) 
" where L. sees churches to his heart's content, including 
Wells and Glastonbury," Entering Cornwall from Bideford 
they journeyed south through Bude, Boscastle and Tintagel 
to Penzance and Liskeard. In the course of the autumn 
they paid short visits to George Trevelyan at the Chief 
Secretary's Lodge in Phoenix Park, and to Joseph Chamber- 
lain at Highbury. Each of the partners was rich in friends, 
and their combined forces made a formidable host. Chelsea 
was within a walk of Westminster, and among the Members 
who most frequently came from the House to dinner was 
Henry Fawcett. " I get to know and Uke him," wrote the 
bride in her Journal. " His personality is soon impressed 
on one — strong clear views, thorough enjo5mient of social 
life, very genial to all, and with loud, cheery voice." But 
from March 15, 1883, the story of Leonard Courtney's 
life is a record of common triumphs and common trials, 
sweetened by loving comradeship and fortified by perfect 



The principal measure of the session of 1884 — and indeed 
of the Parliament of 1880 — was the Franchise Bill. Its 
chief feature, the concession of the vote to the agricultural 
labourer, formed part of the Liberal programme at the 
General Election ; but Courtney was more interested in 
the enfranchisement of women and the representation of 
minorities. On both issues he came into collision with the 
Cabinet, and on one of them the difference proved too 
profound for compromise. 

The discussion which was to continue without interrup- 
tion for over a year opened in the autumn of 1883. " Many 
meetings and speeches," wrote Mrs. Courtney in her Journal 
in describing her first visit to Liskeard. " L. devotes much 
of his time to Proportional Representation." In answer to 
Bright, who had spoken disdainfully of " fads," the Minister 
appealed to the authority of Mill and Cairnes, Dilke and 
Fawcett, and argued that his scheme alone secured the 
principle of "One vote, one value," which Liberals demanded. 
With equal warmth he pleaded that the opportunity should 
be seized of enfranchising women, thus obtaining a reflection 
of the mind of every section of the community. He added 
that as the Franchise Bill would be the crowning achieve- 
ment of the Parliament and should be quickly followed by 
a General Election, it might well wait for another year. 
His speeches aroused a good deal of interest in the political 
world. The Pall Mall Gazette, which had recently passed 
from the hands of Mr. Morley into those of W. T. Stead, 

193 o 


published a leader entitled " Mr. Courtney contra mundum." 
After confessing that there was no pubHc man of equal 
standing who spoke less or said more than the Secretary 
to the Treasury, the Pall Mall proceeded to denounce 
Proportional Representation and to warn the Liberal party 
against postponement of the Bill. A frank and not wholly 
unexpected remonstrance followed from Birmingham. 

From Joseph Chamberlain [to Mrs. Courtney) 

October 31, 1883. — I shall be in London on the 8th and shall 
be delighted to dine with you that evening. I am sorry your 
husband was so outspoken the other day. Perhaps he is right 
in his opinions — ^in any case we shall not quarrel because we 
differ ; but I should have been glad if he had reserved himself 
and not committed himself so far ahead. Public opinion (and 
I think also the decision of the Government) is going against 
him, and under these circumstances it would be good policy to 
keep perfect freedom of action, which is more or less hampered 
by strong expressions of personal predilection. Look at Goschen, 
for instance. His speech on County Franchise was really an 
unnecessary bravado and almost an affectation of courage. It 
has left him stranded on the political beach, and I doubt if, 
with all his ability, he will ever come to the front again. You 
know I do not err myself on the side of reticence, and I should 
not counsel a friend to hold his tongue merely to save his skin ; 
but I admire so heartily your husband's powers and am so 
desirous of working loyally with him that I am anxious that he 
should not unnecessarily emphasise the differences which separate 
us. Here is what a mutual friend writes me — you will guess 
his name. " What a pity that Courtney should never see more 
of the great tide of democracy than can be got up into a table- 
spoon at Liskeard ! " Pray thank him for his kind reference 
to myself, I know that neither you nor he will mind my frank 

The protest was renewed ten days later by word of 


November 8. — Mr. Chamberlain and Mr. Morley dine with us and 
chaff L. about his criticism of the Government. Mr. C. evidently 
fears it will come to a split. He will never consent to P. R. 


The astute Radical commander, who envisaged the 
forthcoming Bill as a pawn on the pohtical chess-board, was 
already laying his plans for the General Election, and 
impatiently brushed aside any proposals which did not seem 
calculated to contribute to the victory. A month later 
Courtney and his wife spent a week-end at Highbury, where 
the host " shadowed out the agitation on the Franchise as 
the card to play which would give the Liberals a majority 
at the next election." Chamberlain's open antagonism 
convinced the friends of Proportional Representation that 
they must organise their forces. On January 16, 1884, the 
Proportional Representation Society was founded, and at 
the first General Meeting on March 5 Sir John Lubbock 
was elected President.^ The members were drawn im- 
partially from both parties, and Mr. Arthur Balfour's 
adhesion gave special satisfaction. 

The Franchise Bill was introduced on February 28, and 
the issue of woman suffrage was raised at the outset. As a 
declared champion of the principle Courtney refused to vote 
against it simply because he was a Minister and because 
the Chief Whip feared a close division. His attitude, how- 
ever, raised a wider issue than the casting of a single vote ; 
and Sir Charles Dilke ^ wrote to the Prime Minister from 
the South of France explaining his position. 

Sir C. Dilke to Mr. Gladstone 

Easter Eve, 1884. — I should feel no difficulty in voting 
against the amendment on the ground of tactics which would 
be stated, provided that Fawcett and Courtney, who are the 
only thick-and-thin supporters of woman's suffrage in the 
Government, voted also ; but I cannot vote if they abstain. 

Gladstone repUed that to add the novel and controversial 
issue of woman's suffrage to the agreed principles of an 
Agricultural Labourers' Franchise Bill was unwise, and 
would give the House of Lords an admirable pretext for 
postponing or rejecting the measure. Sir Charles, as the 

^ Hutchinson, Life of Sir John Lttbbock, i. 201-10. 
* Dilke' s Life, ii. 6-9. 


only convinced supporter in the Cabinet, was in a position 
of peculiar difficulty, but he determined to be in large 
measure guided by the decision of the two subordinate 
Ministers. " By May 22 I had made up my mind that I 
could not vote against the woman franchise amendment if 
Courtney and Fawcett went out on the matter. I could 
not speak to them about it because of the ' Cabinet Secret ' 
doctrine. Childers had been directed by the Cabinet to 
sound Courtney, because he was Courtney's official superior 
in the Treasury. He was to offer him that if he would vote 
against the amendment he should be allowed to speak for 
woman franchise on the merits, and that none of its 
opponents in the Cabinet (that is, all except myself) should 
speak against it on the merits. I was unwiUing to go out, 
but thought I could not do otherwise than make common 
cause with Courtney." 

Courtney and Fawcett stoutly resisted all appeals to 
vote against the amendment, and when it was reached Dilke 
followed their example by walking out. Their insubordina- 
tion caused a miniature storm in the Cabinet. " Hartington 
is very angry with me for not voting," wrote Sir Charles in 
his Diary on June 12, " and wants me turned out for it. 
He has to vote every day for things which he strongly dis- 
approves. He says that my position was wholly different 
from that of Fawcett and Courtney, because I was a party 
to the decision of the Cabinet, and that custom binds the 
minority in the collective decision. This is undoubtedly 
the accepted theory." The matter came up for discussion 
at a Cabinet on June 14, which decided that the three 
mutineers should retain their posts. 

From W. E. Gladstone 

June 16, 1884. — ^The request which I have to make to you, 
in connection with the recent and important division, will 
perhaps be best introduced and explained by my sending you 
in confidence a copy of the enclosed Memorandum which has 
now received the authority of the Cabinet. 

" It has probably come to the notice of my colleagues that, 
in a division early this morning, which was known to be vital to 


the Franchise Bill and to the Government, three of its Members 
abstained from voting. Preliminary intimations had been given 
to this effect, and some effort had been made to bring about a 
different intention. This change of mind was hoped for, but no 
question of surprise can be raised. It is, however, an elementary 
rule, necessary for the cohesion and character of Administrations, 
that on certain questions, and notably on questions vital to 
their existence, their Members should vote together. In the 
event of their not doing so, their intention to quit the Govern- 
ment is presumed, and in all ordinary circumstances ought to 
take effect. At the present moment, however, besides the 
charge of a great legislative measure and an ever-increasing 
mass of other business, the Ministry is rapidly approaching a 
crisis on a question of Foreign affairs which involves principles 
of the deepest importance not only to the welfare of Egypt but 
to the character and honour of the country, and to the law, the 
concord, and possibly even the peace of Europe. It would be 
most unfortunate were the minds of men at such a juncture to 
be disturbed by the resignation of a Cabinet Minister, and of 
two other gentlemen holding offices of great importance, on a 
question which, important as it is, relates mainly to the internal 
discipHne and management of the official corps. I therefore 
propose to my colleagues that I be authorised to request of the 
President of the Local Government Board, the Postmaster 
General, and the Secretary to the Treasury, that they will do 
us the favour to retain their respective offices. 

W. E. Gladstone." 

The Franchise Bill passed through the Commons with 
little opposition, and the Third Reading on June 26 was 
unchallenged ; but on July 8 the Lords declined to proceed 
with it until it was supplemented by a scheme for Re- 
distribution. The Prime Minister sharply rejoined that 
the Bill would be reintroduced in an autumn session, and 
his followers burst into a chorus of angry protest, Mr. Morley 
proclaiming that the House of Lords should be either 
" mended or ended." The indignation was a little too 
shrill for Courtney's taste, though he was no admirer of the 
Upper House as actually constituted. 

To a Constituent 

July 15, 1884. — ^The position of the House of Lords in refer- 
ence to the Franchise BiU is deplorable ; but we need not 


contemplate its abolition. My experience of the present and 
the last House of Commons leads me to think a Second Chamber 
might have its uses in moderating the action of the First Chamber 
issuing directly from popular suffrages and representing in an 
exaggerated form the predominant feeling at the time of an 
election ; but the House of Lords does not supply this use. 
It has two capital defects. It offers no check to the extrava- 
gances of a party majority calling itself Conservative, and its 
vote is (in appearance at least) absolute, not suspensory. Per- 
haps we may feel our way in time to a House that shall exhibit 
the attributes of a real Senate in maintaining its self-command 
in the midst of excitement and in subjecting to the criticism of 
common sense whatever comes before it from every quarter ; 
but it will be necessary that it shall be reinforced by represent- 
atives of classes now practically unrepresented in it and that 
its power should be restricted to a suspensive veto. 

During the autumn holiday Courtney found himself at 
Preston at the same moment as the Prime Minister. 


September 26. — Mr. Gladstone at the station, and we just 
avoided coming in for the demonstration. All this speechifying 
and demonstrating against the House of Lords very empty and 
harmful in L.'s eyes, mere party speeches talked from one end 
of the country to the other. We go down to Putney and discuss 
it with Mr. Morley, who has gone in for it and apparently beheves 
in it all heartily, and thinks that the Franchise BiU, which has 
been sleeping very comfortably for many years in the Liberal 
programme, has suddenly become so urgent that delay is almost 
a crime. 

On his autumn visit to his constituents Courtney 
defended the right of the Lords to discuss the composition 
of the Lower House, and approved their demand that re- 
distribution should accompany an extension of the franchise. 
While his political friends were busy picking holes in the 
Upper Chamber, he reminded his hearers of the defects of 
the Lower. " The present House of Commons falls very 
short of my ideal. I can conceive a much better assembly. 
It gives a wholly disproportionate importance to people of 
wealth and is too much consumed by the spirit of party. 


As the Government of the day we do not get the assistance 
we ought to have from our own supporters. Which of them 
have led us to suspect that we were going wrong except 
Sir Wilfrid Lawson, who deserves all honour for his inde- 
pendence ? I have complained to members, Why are you 
not more independent ? The House of Commons is full of 
faults. So are the Lords. The Upper Chamber should be 
improved by the addition of Life Peers and the election 
of Scottish and Irish (and perhaps later of English) Peers 
by Proportional Representation. We may thus gradually 
secure a body which will keep our paths straight." " A 
calm speech, with no party appeal," wrote Mrs. Courtney 
in her Journal ; " quite too moderate to please our ardent 
Cornishmen." It was indeed the utterance of an indepen- 
dent private Member rather than of a Minister of the Crown, 
and once more revealed his incorrigible tendency to think 
for himself. A report of the speech was sent to various 
friends, who gently resented its Olympian detachment. 

From John Morley {to Mrs. Courtney) 

October 14. — Many thanks for the newspaper. I don't think 
that the orator's friends have any reason to complain. But the 
situation is more heated than he supposes. The moment is not 
entirely seasonable for the confession of sins. All that ought to 
be done before the engagement begins. 

The Minister's more conservative friends rejoiced at his 
challenge to insurgent democracy. 

From John Scott 

Kandy, November 10, 1884. — I like your speech very much. 
The Times reported it very well. I am very glad you stand by 
a Second Chamber. The whole tone was manly, independent, 
thoughtful and practical. You will some day find it difficult to 
run in the same team as Chamberlain and Morley. 

Despite the battle-cries of the opposing armies the 
generals were not averse from compromise, and when it 
was known that a Committee of the Cabinet had drawn up 
a scheme for the redistribution of seats, peace was brought 


within sight. When Parliament met on October 23 the 
Franchise Bill was re-introduced and quickly carried 
through the House ; and outside Parliament Lord SaHsbury 
and Stafford Northcote met the Prime Minister and Dilke 
and settled the outlines of a Redistribution of Seats, Their 
fruitful labom-s were to secure the safe passage of the 
Franchise Bill and a non-party scheme of Redistribution ; 
but there was a tiny group of Liberal Members who waited 
with bated breath to see whether the representation of 
minorities formed part of the Downing Street compact. 

On November 6 Courtney's closest personal and poUtical 
friend in the Ministry passed away after a few days' illness. 


Woke up as usual when L. came in from the House, and 
asking him some questions I could hear from the dressing-room 
that something was wrong. Then he came in and told me the 
dreadful news in a tone of voice I shall not easily forget.^ It 
was a very deep grief and a great loss politically as well, as we 
felt when a few weeks later the Redistribution Bill came on 
and he left the Government, protesting with two or three against 
the BiU. How different his position would have been had Mr. 
Fawcett lived to go out with him, as he undoubtedly would have 
done. As Mr. Morley said, the resignation of those two would 
have been an event. 

To Richard Potter 

November 14. — The loss of Fawcett is a terrible blow. It is 
hard to believe that such abundant and joyous life has suddenly 
ceased, and that we shall not again rejoice in his free and 
courageous talk. I doubt whether he could have been taken 
from us at a time of greater political anxiety. The immediate 
future is most dark. My own fortunes are mixed up in the 
struggle ; but I hope you will be satisfied that whatever happens 
no step wiU be taken without the most anxious consideration. 
Kate will share counsels as she must share fortunes. She is 
brave enough for anything.^ 

^ In a note of 191 8 Lady Courtney adds, " I never saw him give way 
so completely to such an outburst of grief." 

* Courtney told his wife that resignation would mean the end of his 
official life. 


Fawcett's death created a vacancy in the Chair of 
Political Economy at Cambridge for which Courtney had 
been a candidate in 1863, and in view of his probable 
resignation his thoughts turned for a moment towards the 
post. Roby sounded a few of the electors, Henry Sidgwick 
amongst them, but reported against the plan. Stricter views 
as to the necessity of residence had begun to prevail, and it 
was generally agreed that the choice would fall on Alfred 

From H. J. Roby 

November 18. — The important question is what residence you 
could give ; and I fear the amount demanded by the University 
would be too much to be properly compatible with Parliamentary 
work. Moreover, it is quite possible that if you go out of office 
you may not be long out ; and I do not think office and the 
Professorship are compatible, though there are the instances of 
Harcourt and Fawcett to the contrary. Both are somewhat 
special cases. I think on the whole the more dignified course 
would be not to be a candidate, though I say it with great 
reluctance. I should think you would have no difficulty in 
getting good newspaper emplo)anent. 

Though on the threshold of the Cabinet the Financial 
Secretary was told nothing of the discussions of the Four. 
He had httle hope that the principle would be adopted by 
the Government, for Gladstone had opposed it in 1867. He 
felt it his duty nevertheless to forward a lengthy Memoran- 
dum to the Prime Minister. ^ 

To W. E. Gladstone 

November 8, 1884. — The answer you gave last week to the 
enquiry of Sir John Lubbock was probably such as he himself 
expected ; but it must have left him and those who like myself 
agree with him anxious lest the principle of proportional re- 
presentation should not receive due consideration at a time when 
consideration of it may be fruitful. The Redistribution Bill 
will follow the Franchise Bill, but the scheme of the Redistribu- 
tion Bill must be formed while the Franchise Bill is still in 

^ Abridged. 


process. When it is once laid upon the table the introduction 
of any new principle into it must be perilous if not impossible. 

I venture to address you then on my own responsibility, and 
I would plead in justification the very large number of M.P.'s 
(190 or more) who have become members of the Proportional 
Representation Society, and have thus expressed their approval 
of its principle, and my own professed and now long-rooted 
sense of its national importance. My appreciation of the 
principle of Proportional Representation is more than thirty 
years old, and dates before the recognition of it in the Reform 
Bill of 1853 brought in by Lord (John) Russell when your col- 
league in the Cabinet of Lord Aberdeen ; although I must 
confess that at that time my apprehension of it was imperfect. 
I was, however, thus early strongly convinced of the injury 
done to our national life by the deleterious training more or 
less undergone by every one who is drawn into the political 
world, and by the loss of men who are shut out of it as refusing 
to submit to this training. There are men who cannot serve 
the State just as there are men who cannot serve the Church 
because they cannot subscribe, except in a non-natural sense, 
to all the articles imposed on those admitted to service. Many 
persons must have many ways of regarding the same subject ; 
but the vice, which I have thus briefly indicated, seems to me 
the spring of the evils of our poUtical system. We deny our- 
selves some of the richest elements of national Ufe. Parhament 
is not a distillation of the best wisdom of the Commonwealth. 
It is derived I will not say from contaminated but from im- 
perfect sources. I may remind you that you yourself have 
been witness to the decUne in the standard of ParUamentary 
Ufe during the last thirty years, and we must look to other 
communities of EngUsh origin, to our Colonies whether attached 
or detached from us, for the fuller outcome of what is yet in 
germ among ourselves. There you will find the pubUc good 
become the spoil of professional poUticians, against whose 
domination the better sort struggle again and again to set them- 
selves free, but struggle is vain. It was, I suppose, under the 
influence of some such views as these of democratic develop- 
ment that Mr, Mill hailed with enthusiasm the revelation of 
the true principle of representation. It gave him, he said, a 
new hope. 

I have not dwelt upon points which have perhaps more 
powerfully attracted the majority of minds to proportional 
representation, because I have thought it due to you to go at 
once to what I beheve to be the centre of the argument. But 


you will perhaps let me indicate some of these points. In the 
first place we can have no security that the result of an election 
conducted according to the habitual method, i.e. when the 
country is divided into districts in each of which the majority 
of its electors elect its representatives — corresponds to the 
division of parties among the mass of electors. I speak of 
two parties as the simplest case. The two parties may be 
evenly distributed among all the divisions of the country so 
that the dominant party monopoUses all the representation, 
as is approximately done in Wales and Scotland. Or, without 
a practical monopoly, a slender majority on one side may pro- 
duce a disproportionate majority in the representative assembly. 
Or a majority among the electors may fail to secure even a 
majority among the elected. Next to the uncertainty that 
must attach to the result of an election is the point of the 
enormous power the system throws into the hands of a small 
oscillating fraction. It is through this that the degradation 
of the character of candidates has been made most manifest 
to many. It is through this that the tendency arises, which 
you have noted, towards a gerontocracy or a plutocracy. I 
am bound, however, to add that there is some compensation 
here, for it is through this that an earnest minority compels 
attention to its views. Unable to attain its proper, direct 
representation in the legislature, it more or less tardily, and 
with more or less of sincerity in the result, converts to its views 
candidates who know that without its support their candidature 
must be unavaiHng. Closely connected with the last point is 
the evil of the great turnovers of pohtical parties, which recently 
observed at home is a perpetually recurring phenomenon in 
our Colonies. I believe that there are no such violent changes 
in the national judgment as these election results would indicate. 
I would wish not to trespass unduly on your time, but you 
may perhaps expect me to say a word or two on the plans for 
realising the principle of proportional representation, supposing 
the principle is admitted. The present Umited vote is an im- 
perfect device ; but it cannot be contested that it secures a 
far better representation of the constituencies to which it is 
applied than the method it superseded or (I would add) any 
method of pure majority voting. The cumulative vote has 
been applied on a larger scale and with remarkable success, 
as far as attaining what was desired, in School Board stations. 
It has made the Act of 1870 workable, as it has secured the 
representation and, in most Boards, the co-operation of parties 
that under the older system have been fighting for exclusive 


possession, and would be forced, when in possession, to make 
their first object the promotion of sectional interests. In the 
single transferable vote I would submit a method which would 
realise all the good the cumulative vote has secured, while 
emancipating the electors from the necessity of conforming 
to the directions of some political organisation which the cumu- 
lative vote undoubtedly requires. But there are many other 
plans, any one of which I should be ready to support, tending 
towards the end I seek. Any coat is better than none, and 
there is a choice of serviceable garments for those who wish 
to be clothed. 

I cannot conclude without a few words on a subject I regard 
as of transcendent importance in connection with this reform. 
I mean Ireland. The future of Ireland is dark and threatens 
to become one of deepening gloom. If we contrast the Parha- 
mentary representation of the Island with what it was twenty- 
five years ago, and then attempt to picture what it may be a 
few years hence we must be filled with anxiety. We may reduce 
the disorganisation within the House of Commons by the adop- 
tion of adequate rules ; but no reformed rules can cope with 
the fact of a Parliamentary representation of Ireland irreconcil- 
ably opposed with few exceptions to the ParUamentary connec- 
tion with Great Britain. If this threatened ParUamentary 
representation did truly correspond with the division of opinion 
in Ireland, the conscience of the nation would not endure to 
maintain the Union. Home Rule would be inevitable. Yet 
there must still remcdn within its confines a large residue of 
temperate opinion, in the best sense of the words both Liberal 
and Conservative, which is faiUng to secure ParUamentary 
expression and is in imminent danger of being soon entirely 
deprived of it. With its waning influence in the legislature its 
life must wane ; and, unless my forebodings are aU false, the 
prospect before us should compel the most anxious care to save 
loyal and rational Irishmen from exclusion from the ParUa- 
mentary arena. There is a strong case in Great Britain for 
large efforts to secure proportional representation ; but in 
Ireland it is clamorous. In this interest I would most earnestly 
beseech a consideration of the whole subject before the day of 
consideration is past. 

Ten days later the Prime Minister sent a non-committal 
acknowledgement of the Memorandum. 


From W. E. Gladstone 

November 20, 1884. — ^The full and able exposition of your 
views on proportional representation, with which you have 
favoured me, has been brought in extenso under the notice of 
my colleagues in the Cabinet, who are well aware of your title 
to have your views carefully weighed. I am sure you wiU 
feel that in the peculiar circumstances of the moment I am not 
able to go beyond this assurance. 

The most sympathetic comment came from the Lord- 
Lieutenant of Ireland. 

From Lord Spencer 

November 11, 1884. — This is to thank you extremely for 
sending me a copy of your letter to Mr. Gladstone on propor- 
tional representation. My incUnations and desires are still 
strongly with the sense of your letter, but I feel great difficulties 
as to the practical nature of any scheme which has been pro- 
duced. I share your feeUngs in Fawcett's loss. He would 
have been of immense use just now. I have been and am so 
occupied with Irish work that I have not been able to work up 
the question as I could wish. 

The difficulties of his position were set forth in a letter 
to Penzance. 

To his sister Margaret 

November 21. — People have no doubt been asking you 
whether I am going to resign. I have not resigned as yet, but 
all things seem leading that way. It is not an agreeable prospect, 
especially as my resignation will almost certainly be ineffectual 
for any immediate practical purpose, and I shall be condemned 
as a crotchety man unfit for business life if not as a disappointed, 
iU-tempered person. For us who believe that the character of 
the Legislature and through it of the nation depends on this 
issue there is nothing left but to bear witness to what we hold 
to be the truth, and so I look forward to going below the gang- 
way to Hft up my voice in the wilderness. Kate, as you may 
be sure, is very much occupied with this crisis. She has the 
greatest faith and courage equal to her faith ; but it is rather 
hard on her, and she chafes a Httle at the incapacity to do any- 


thing and would like to rouse Sir John Lubbock and others to 
more activity. Fawcett's death in this is a terrible loss as in 
other things. You asked about the Postmaster-Generalship. 
Childers spoke to me about it when it was vacant, saying he 
should urge my claims if I should Hke to move. I repUed that 
as it seemed not impossible I should be out very soon I did not 
think it fair to lay myself out for a new appointment, about 
which I might not in any case greatly care. 

The view taken by most of his friends was strongly 
against resignation. 

From H. J. Rohy 

November i8, 1884. — If Don Quixote once mounts his steed. 
Heaven knows whither he will ride or how he will behave. I 
wish you could prevail on yourself not to mount him at aU. 
The cause is not worthy of it. It is too abstract, and, if the 
distribution of seats is settled in a few months the cause, however 
valuable, must go to sleep for years. 

From John Morley 

November 22. — I hope you did not misunderstand an expres- 
sion of mine last night. When I said that I wished you had 
come out eighteen months ago, that did not mean that I should 
hke to see you come out now. On the contrary, I shall wholly 
regret that step. Eighteen months ago / was too inexperienced 
in the House of Commons to make any show against their 
Egyptian poUcy. If you had been below the gangway, you 
might have led an effective protest. All that is now too late — 
and some new start will have to be made, I hate your making 
a demonstration of this gravity on a question where you will 
find httle sympathy — and, I may say, no sympathy at all among 
those large classes who would most earnestly respond to your 
views on foreign and colonial poUcy. It is in this field that I, 
at least, hope to see you exercising an all-important influence. 
We shall need it aU, 

A confidential interview with Childers was authorised 
by the Prime Minister ; but the Secretary to the Treasury 
obtained little consolation from his official chief. It was 
an anxious week-end. Though nobody knew what the 
Prime Minister was going to say, the friends of minority 
representation were prepared for the worst. 



November 29. — Opening of mosaic at St. Jude's, Whitechapel. 
Mr. Matthew Arnold, who was to give the address, to breakfast. 
We go down together. L, takes the chair. Impending political 
events so engross my mind that I hardly heard anything. Mr. 
F. Buxton speaks to me and I tell him that L. will probably 
resign on Monday. He is much upset and tries to dissuade him, 
and comes again on Sunday to do so. Mr. Arthur Elliot is also 
much concerned. 

Protests were unavailing, for the Minister had resolved 
to resign unless the Prime Minister's statement proved 


Monday,. December i. — Mr. Gladstone announces outline of 
Redistribution Bill to the party. Leonard sends in his resigna- 
tion on hearing it. I go to the House, and for some time do 
not know whether he has resigned or not, as I cannot see him. 
Finally he is seen alone in the Gallery, and I know he has left 
the Treasury Bench for good. Was ever politician in such a 
minority as he seemed that night, with two or three forlorn and 
depressed allies ? Notwithstanding I felt a strange triumph, 
and never thought my husband a bigger man than I did that 
evening. He was doing a momentous thing and doing it so 
simply and unobtrusively and without heroics ! 

After the announcement of the Cabinet plans the Secre- 
tary to the Treasury at once wrote to inform the Prime 
Minister of his irrevocable resolve. 

To W. E, Gladstone 

December i. — I think our conversation will have so far pre- 
pared you that you will not be surprised to receive my resigna- 
tion of the office I hold. I tender it with great regret, for I 
have naturally prized much the honour of serving under you ; 
but with the judgment I have been constrained to form of the 
character and probable results of the Redistribution Bill I 
cannot hesitate. I would only ask you to believe that I do not 
take this step until after much and painful deliberation. I 
cannot conclude without thanking you very sincerely for the 
personal kindness I have received from you, a sense of which 
will always abide with me as a private Member. 


From W. E. Gladstone 

December i. — If you unhappily quit the Government, the 
Queen and the country will lose a most able pubUc servant, who 
has done in a short time much admirable work. To this con- 
nection I shall add great and sincere personal concern. Yet I 
feel we have no right to dun you in a matter which you have, 
I know, considered seriously and with much pain. I cannot 
help, however, pleading my grey hairs as an apology for stating 
to you that the step, even if at the last unavoidable, is, as I 
think, premature. It is in my opinion, and according to my 
experience, a fixed rule of English administration that an of&cial 
Member of ParUament, not yet in the Cabinet, only becomes 
responsible for any proceeding of the Government outside his 
department when as a Member of ParUament he has to take his 
line in regard to it. This you will not do until the question of 
proportional representation shall be raised upon the Bill. It is 
most important on general grounds that this rule should not 
be further tightened. I hope, then, you will consider the 
decision as suspended. But I go a step further. I believe that 
judges of great weight deem our proposal of one-Member districts 
well adapted to the condition of Ireland, which, I also believe, 
has much to do with the resolution you announce. Would 
you not hear Lord Spencer on this subject ? And if so allow 
me to arrange for your calling upon him. Pray do not deem 
this a worrying letter. 

To W. E. Gladstone 

December i. — I am bound by every consideration of duty 
and of incUnation to reply at once to your very kind letter. I 
would gladly consider my resignation suspended were that 
possible consistently with my estimate of the facts of the situa- 
tion ; but indeed that is not possible. The Redistribution Bill 
will probably pass without material change ; but, as I am driven 
to the conclusion that it will have a painfully injurious effect 
on our poUtical Ufe, I am bound to bear my testimony, however 
unavailing, against it, and if I am to bear any testimony I must 
not delay the first witness of resignation. I am glad to under- 
stand Lord Spencer takes a favourable view of the operation 
of the Bill in Ireland, and should, of course, be deUghted to see 
him personally as you suggest, but I am afraid I cannot antici- 
pate any effect of an interview in modifying my conclusion. 
The great kindness of your letter would have constrained me 
could any argument have prevailed. 


Letters of regret or congratulation poured in from 
Ministers, Treasury colleagues, and personal friends. 

From Lord Spencer 

December 2. — I am extremely sorry to hear that you have 
resigned. I do not write with any idea of influencing your 
action, or because any opinions of mine are worthy of your 
consideration, but merely to express my great regret that the 
Government has lost so able a member. Personally I shall miss 
you very much at the Treasury, as I have in not unfrequent 
communications had the greatest satisfaction in discussing 
Treasury matters with you. I may also say that as I sympathise 
warmly with your views on Minority Representation, I regret 
that you find yourself obliged to part with Mr. Gladstone upon 
the question. 

From Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice 
{Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs) 

December 2. — I need hardly tell you with how much regret 
I have learnt we are to be no longer colleagues. I had always 
believed you would be the next person admitted into the Cabinet, 
and this feeUng makes me admire your determination all the 
more. I regret very much the cutting up of our large towns 
into wards for the purposes of election. With the exception of 
W. E. Forster, I have heard nobody say a word in favour of it, 
and I believe it will be most unpopular in the towns themselves. 
But on this, as on the question of minority representation, the 
Tories, whom we have to thank for the arrangement, have 
not been able to look at anything except temporary poUtical 
advantage ; and even as to that they are probably mistaken. 

From Lord Bramwell 

December 2. — I am very sorry to hear of your resignation. 
Is it necessary ? The Ministry will lose their best man. I say 
it and mean it. 

From Mrs, Fawcett 

December 2. — I am so glad of the news in this morning's 
paper ; and I wish to send you and Mrs. Courtney this Hne of 
congratulation. You know, I am sure, you would not have 
been alone in this action of yours if Harry had been here to join 



you. He often spoke of this to me. It will be harder for you 

now to fight your battle single-handed ; but you have plenty of 
strength and courage, Mrs. Courtney must be very proud and 
happy to see her husband fighting " where what he most doth 
value must be won." 

From William Stebhing 

December 2. — In one sense I am exceedingly sorry. Your 
rise to high official rank appeared so certain and easy. But in 
another and superior sense I admire you for the act, though 
it is only what I should have anticipated from you. 

From H, J. Roby 

December 2. — So you have done the deed and recovered your 
liberty to protest. Well, I dare say you feel mentally more 
comfortable, but I am sorry it has come to this, and if it was to 
come to this, wish you had a reason which commanded more 
of my sympathy. But conscience does make fanatics of some. 

The resignation of a thrifty financier was lamented by 
his brother watch-dogs of the Treasury. 

From Sir Reginald Welby 

December 2. — I see with great regret that we are to lose you. 
There are of course convictions which admit of no compromise 
and I am the last man to wish that any one of note in public 
life should sacrifice such convictions. But at the same time 
both personally and in the pubHc interest I sincerely regret 
your determination. The first and foremost duty of the 
Treasury is defence of the EngUsh tax-payer, and strange to say 
the EngUsh tax-payer appears to resent such care of his interest. 
But if the interest is neglected the State will suffer. The old 
generation of statesmen appreciated this consideration. The 
new one does not, and I should have been heartily glad to keep 
at the Treasury as a Chief almost the only one of the new 
generation to whom the old tradition of the Treasury recom- 
mended itself. I hope your separation from the Government 
will be but temporary. 

The Minister's regret at leaving his post was as keen 
as that of his colleagues. 


To Sir Algernon West ^ 

December 8. — I am very sorry to sever my of&cial connection 
with the Treasury ; yet I think I may pledge myself to continue 
faithful to my interest in it. If a voice is wanted in the House 
I will not be silent. Assuredly my work was made Ughter and 
easier by your co-operation. 

On December 4 the late Minister seized the opportunity 
of the Second Reading of the Redistribution Bill to make 
the customary speech of explanation. 


December 4. — I go to the Speaker's Gallery and sit in front 
of Mrs. Gladstone while Leonard makes his protest. A sincere 
and earnest speech, in parts eloquent but not at his best. Mrs. 
Gladstone rather characteristically says to me, " My dear, 
I had no idea your husband was such a clever man." The 
Prime Minister passes it by with a jesting answer, and half the 
House professes not to understand L.'s explanation of the single 
transferable vote, — followed and understood by large audiences 
of a lower class later on. 

The speech opened with a friendly tribute to the Prime 
Minister, " He appealed to me to remain in tones of 
kindness which I shall ever remember. Nothing but the 
strength of my conscientious conviction would have upheld 
my resolve. Let me tender him my most hearty thanks 
for the kindness he has ever exhibited, and say that in 
parting from him I feel my attachment to him increased 
rather than diminished." Turning to the cause of his 
resignation he asked the question, Why do I so solemnly 
protest against the creation of these new single-Member 
constituencies ? The answer was threefold. It was a 
departure from the old lines of the Constitution. It was 
not truly representative of opinion. It would lower the 
character of Members of Parliament. After the elucidation 
of technical details and the citation of American illustra- 
tions came the peroration, rendered poignant by a reference 

^ Sir Algernon West, Recollections, ii. 221. 


to the death of Fawcett. " You would nowhere have 
people with their power thrown away. You would have a 
reflection of the national will and the national wisdom. 
There would be no single artisan or agricultural labourer 
or man of learning who would not be able to say. There is 
somebody in the House for whom I voted who represents 
me. No such promise of freedom can be secured by any 
other machinery. I cannot sufficiently deplore my own 
want of power to preach this gospel. If the proceedings 
of this night had occurred one short month ago I should 
not have been alone in deserting that bench or in advocat- 
ing this cause. Those who shared his counsel, who knew 
his thoughts, who accompanied him so many years in his 
pohtical hfe, cannot do him more honour than in being 
faithful to the doctrines he held. I for my part would pray 
to God to be faithful to this cause." 

The Prime Minister at once rose to reply, and returned 
the compliments of his dissentient colleague. " In his 
departure from the service of the Crown and of the nation 
we have sustained a heavy loss. In that official career, 
though not very lengthened, he has made his mark upon 
the administrative business of the country ; and to this 
acknowledgment of the past I desire to add an expression 
of a fervent hope for the future — that either with this or 
with some other Government congenial to him he may for 
many long years be united without the mitoward occur- 
rences or impediments such as have now deprived us of 
his valuable services." Passing to the subject at issue he 
conceded that any and every plan was open not only to 
plausible but to real objections, and that in much of his 
criticism the ex-Secretary to the Treasury had stood on 
sohd ground. WTien, however, he had come to develop 
his own scheme, " which he worships as embodying some- 
thing very near to pohtical perfection," the sympathy of 
the House had begun to fail. His proposal, indeed, though 
certified as simple enough, was in truth a pons asinorum 
which very few Members would be able to cross. But 
whether the system were complicated or the reverse, he 
had exaggerated both its merits and the evils which it was 


designed to cure. Why should such condemnation be 
poured on the single - Member constituency, which had 
returned many of the most eminent members of the House 
and was adopted all over the world ? If the system was 
so disastrous, such universal approval and acquiescence 
would be inexpHcable. The Government had been con- 
fronted by a choice of evils ; and when the Bill reached 
Committee alterations could be freely discussed. 

The speech was a dexterous effort in the Prime 
Minister's lighter vein. His task was facilitated by the 
fact that the motion before the House was for the second 
reading of a first-class measm-e, and that it was hardly the 
occasion for a detailed rejoinder to a technical disquisition 
on a single issue. Courtney, on the other hand, was 
justified in claiming that Gladstone had contested none of 
his facts. Except for a reasoned argument from Sir John 
Lubbock the debate paid Httle attention to Proportional 
Representation ; and it was obvious to friends and foes 
alike that the House would never take the question seriously 
until the electorate had been wooed if not won. When the 
Bill reached Committee, Sir John Lubbock, supported by 
Courtney and Albert Grey, moved for the introduction of 
the principle ; but only thirty-one Members found their 
way into the division lobby. A final protest came from 
the ex-Minister on the Third Reading. 

Despite the friendly gestures of farewell, the resigning 
Minister felt no pang in parting from his chief. " Even 
apart from his rather rugged poUtical independence," writes 
Lord Fitzmaurice, " few mental links existed between his 
general outlook and that of Mr. Gladstone. Indeed most 
of their mental characteristics were almost of an opposite 
character. Nobody ever misunderstood what Courtney 
meant, nor was his mind in a state of constant and fre- 
quently unexpected development Uke that of Mr. Gladstone. 
He held the pure and undiluted doctrine of the poUtical 
economic school of Bentham and Mill, and never swerved 
from one jot or tittle of the law. Now this school was one 
with which Mr. Gladstone's mind had neither sympathy 
nor affinity at any time. Courtney's mind in fact, trained 


not in the casuistries of Oxford theology but essentially 
conditioned by the hard if somewhat narrow school of 
Cambridge studies, was the exact opposite of the clerical 
mind. Therefore although affection for sound finance and 
economy, and a strong disUke for South African poUtical 
adventures, brought Mr. Gladstone and him occasionally 
into hne together at an early date in the Parliament which 
had lasted untU 1880, mental sympathy there would be little 
or none between two natures so differently constituted. " The 
analysis of temperamental difference is perfectly correct ; 
but it was an ironical coincidence that on the occasion of 
their parting the illustrious casuist should be found guard- 
ing the broad highway and reminding his lieutenant of the 
Umitations of the common man. 

It is no part of the biographer's duty to deliver judge- 
ment on Courtney's resignation of office. He acted after 
mature dehberation and in spite of the protest of his friends. 
He had counted the cost, and he never complained of the 
price that he was called upon to pay. Whether he was 
justified in attaching such transcendent importance to a 
question of poUtical machinery will be answered in different 
ways according to our estimate of the need and practi- 
cal value of Proportional Representation. StiU less is it 
posf/^ible to determine with general assent what issues are 
grave enough to compel a Minister, who is not a member 
of the Cabinet, to quit his post. The ethics of resignation 
are not an exact science, and there wiU always be marginal 
cases in which the only guidance is to be found in the 
individual conscience. Courtney's action in 1884 belongs 
to the same category as Gladstone's resignation on the 
Maynooth Grant in 1845 ; and in explaining his conduct to 
his constituents he quoted the poignant words of the chief 
from whom he had parted. "The choice before me was 
to support the measure or to retire into a position of com- 
plete isolation, and, what is more, subject to the grave and 
general imputation of political eccentricity. It is not pro- 
fane if I say. With a great price obtained I this freedom. 
In giving up what I highly prized I felt myself open to the 
charge of being opinionated and wanting in deference to 


great authorities ; and I could not but know that I should 
be regarded as fastidious or fanciful, and fitter for a dreamer 
than for pubUc life in a busy and moving age." While the 
mass of men looked on with slightly contemptuous bewilder- 
ment, there were not a few who rejoiced to discover that a 
public servant of the front rank was willing to sacrifice his 
position and to jeopardise his political career in vindication 
of a life-long conviction. 

Among the grounds of resignation was the probable 
effect of the Bill in wiping out the Liberal element in Ireland 
and handing over the country body and soul to Parnell. 
His views were shared by the O'Conor Don, who emphasised 
the danger in forcible terms. 

From the O'Conor Don 

December 7, 1884. — Allow me to express my great admiration 
for the practical proof you have given of the sincerity of your 
convictions by your resignation of office. Whatever this same 
Bill may do in Great Britain, its effects in Ireland will beyond 
all question be most disastrous. I cannot see how we can stop 
short I will not say merely of " Repeal " but of " Separation." 
The Franchise and Seats BiUs taken together will absolutely 
extinguish aU Liberal representation in Ireland outside the 
ranks of those who will be pledged to " separation." It may 
be that the Bill will leave a few Tory seats in the North of Ireland, 
but as to Liberal seats as distinguished from Nationalists there 
will be none, or so few that I may say none. If this represented 
the real feeling of Ireland it would be all right ; but it will not 
do so. A large minority in the three provinces of Leinster, 
Munster and Connaught will be wholly unrepresented, and a 
Liberal Government will have to face the whole Irish repre- 
sentative body as hostile — either extreme Tories or Nationalists. 

Courtney forwarded the letter to the Prime Minister, 
who was so obsessed by the complexity of minority repre- 
sentation that no Irish or other arguments could shake him. 

From W. E. Gladstone 

December 19. — ^Thank you for your letter with its inclosures 
and the letter of the O'Conor Don. I believe my description 


of the general merits of the House of Commons on the first 
hearing of your plan was true and that few were able to pay 
the toll upon the bridge. There is great advantage in studying 
it on paper, and the case of the capable citizen becomes more 
hopeful, without the smallest reproach to the deliverer of the 
oral explanation. Doubtless there are many other points to be 
considered besides intelligibility, but even on this last ground 
I still fear there would be many victims. 

Though the Prime Minister had hardened his heart. 
Lord Acton was a convinced supporter, and told Mary 
Gladstone that a friend whom he had met at dinner " was 
a little shocked to find that I agree with Courtney." ^ 

When Parliament adjourned for the Christmas holidays 
on December 6, Courtney started on a campaign in the 
country, in which his principal allies were his Parliamentary 
colleagues, Sir John Lubbock and Albert Grey, afterwards 
Earl Grey. The mission opened in Manchester, where his 
host, Mr. C. P. Scott, then and now Editor and Proprietor 
of the Manchester Guardian, was a zealous friend of the 
cause. The first gathering was held at the Reform Club 
with Mr. Scott in the chair. His proposal was presented ^ 
as " steeped in the essence of democracy " and " containing 
within itself the realisation of the widest conception of 
popular sovereignty." Mr. Gladstone, in his reply in the 
House of Commons, had never ventured to question his 
facts or refute his arguments, or to deny the assertion that 
a majority of Members had been returned by a minority 
of electors in England and the United States. For instance, 
the Conservative majority of 1874 was secured by a minority 
of voters. That was the first and fatal objection to the 
single-Member constituency, — ^that a Parliament sometimes 
represented the minority instead of the majority. The 
second was that it failed to secure the representation of the 
different modes of thinking and living. For instance, the 
working class had enjoyed the franchise since 1867, but 
were virtually without representatives. " The upper classes 
are as kindly natured as the lower ; but their experience 

^ Letters to Mary Gladstone, 157. 
' The address was published as a pamphlet. 


has not made them famihar with the trials of the poor, 
any more than the experience of the poor has made them 
famihar with the tasks of the rich. What we want in 
Parhament is the presence of both, instructing one another, 
raising one another, and making Parhament a reflex of the 
temper, the will, the intelligence and the knowledge of the 
kingdom. You would get such a revival of spirit and of 
hfe that when this ideal is secured a miracle would be 
wrought throughout the kingdom not inferior to the miracle 
of the Valley of Dry Bones. A town would be represented 
as a whole and not in fragments, and every class and school 
of thought would have its spokesman and champion." 

Next evening a meeting was held in the Free Trade 

To his Wife 

December 18. — It was grand. We had not a full hall but 
still a large number, all keenly interested. Up to the time 
of voting I did not know whether we should carry our resolution. 
It was carried by about three to two. 

On the following day he joined Albert Grey, who had 
already begun a campaign in the mining villages of Durham 
and was full of schemes for the furtherance of the gospel. 

From Albert Grey 

December 9. — If you can only succeed in winning the miners 
as a class, I have hopes that we may also succeed in winning the 
Tories as a party. I am holding my meetings in the pit districts 
as private meetings. They are unreported, and this enables 
me to make use freely of arguments which I would not dare to 
use if what I said was to be read by the Tory farmer. I am 
anxious, however, to secure the miners first and do not intend 
to approach the Tories until after Christmas. By that time my 
work in the pit districts will be done. If on the meeting of 
Parliament I could bring up from Northumberland a numerously 
and plentifully signed petition in favour of the county being 
made into one instead of four constituencies and its representative 
being elected by the Hare Principle, something at any rate 
would have been done to answer Gladstone's challenge that 


we must first obtain an entry for our views into the minds of 
the people before we ask the House of Lords to Hsten to us. 
I beUeve if we had time we could carry every single county, 
but we have only the one short month of January. 

The campaign inspired Sir Wilfrid Lawson to one of 
his whimsical outbursts. 

I agree, Mr. Grey, 

With near all you say 
On the evils we suffer from now. 

Then you point out a scheme 

Which will cure them, you deem. 
But I own that I don't quite see how. 

We move by slow stages 

And live in dark ages, 
Slow Cometh the dawning of day. 

Things would go wrong, I guess, 

With the papers, unless 
They were counted by Courtney and Grey. 

Still I'm struck by some twinkling. 

And have a small inkling. 
That your plan after all may be good. 

So just work away, 

Courtney, Lubbock and Grey, 
Till you make yourselves right understood. 

After the two missionaries had addressed some miners' 
meetings, Courtney went on to Newcastle to stay with 
Dr. Spence Watson, whence he reported himself " in very 
good spirits with the star tour in the provinces." Return- 
ing home for Christmas he was soon off again, and carried 
the fiery cross through the great cities as far north as 
Glasgow. Test elections were frequently held, and for the 
first time the theory and practice of Proportional Repre- 
sentation were expounded to large audiences with perfect 
clarity and apostolic fervour. " This rowdy platformery and 
fierce democratic agitation evidently suits you after all," 
wrote John Morley, good-humouredly turning the tables on 
the critic of his own campaign against the Lords. " F. 
reports you as in famous spirits. I know that I shall come 
upon you bawling out of a carriage window at Preston one 


of these days." Two months later, when the struggle was 
over, Courtney surveyed the loss and gain in a letter to the 
Chairman of the American Committee for Proportional 
Representation, who had written to congratulate him on 
his unselfish devotion to the cause. 

To Mr. Stern 

March 13, 1885. — The newspapers will have told you of our 
Parliamentary failure. This was certain from the outset, but 
I confess I did not think we should have been so badly beaten. 
There are few who care to be found unnecessarily on the losing 
side, and many who were clamorous in the beginning in denuncia- 
tion of the division of our big towns are now not merely silent 
but cheerfully accepting the situation. The private agreement 
between the heads of the two great parties was our death-blow. 
The remonstrants, whether Liberals against the Government 
or Conservatives against the Conservative chiefs, have dropped 
away as they perceived that if they would save their lives 
politically they must go with their chiefs. Thus the Parlia- 
mentary failure of our movement has been sad. We have had, 
however, eminent cause of satisfaction in the progress we have 
made in the country. We have had meetings open to all comers, 
when our principles and plans have been expounded with nearly 
unvarying success. Opponents have come, and have declared 
their adverse judgment and even attempted to persuade the audi- 
ences, but in vain. With two exceptions we have carried our 
meetings with considerable and sometimes overwhelming majori- 
ties. We have disseminated a large mass of literature. We have 
held test elections. Debating societies and political clubs have 
been furnished with ballot papers and instructions and have held 
elections of their own. In this way much seed has been sown 
and we are sanguine it will bear fruit. We shall now look forward 
to the coming General Election which will probably illustrate 
our arguments in the most forcible fashion. I cannot conclude 
without a word of thanks for your kind expressions relatively 
to myself. I do not anticipate any injury at least in the long 
run, and for the present I am relieved from much that was 
painful. Indeed I congratulate myself on having resigned at 
the time I did, as it would have been most hard and yet most 
necessary to have resigned subsequently on the new development 
of the Soudan policy of the Government. 



After the suppression of Arabi's rebellion in 1882 Egypt 
ceased for a short time to attract much public notice ; but 
the rise of the Mahdi and the disaster to Hicks Pasha in 
1883 again turned all eyes to the valley of the Nile, and led 
the Khedive, on British advice, to abandon the Sudan. 
When Gordon was despatched in 1884 to withdraw the 
Europeans and the Mahdist flood rolled round Khartum, 
the country concentrated its gaze with passionate intensity 
on the fortunes of the beleaguered garrison. As summer 
passed into autumn and autumn into winter the progress 
of the reUeving force was followed with hungry anxiety, 
and a great volume of popular anger accumulated, ready 
to descend on the head of the Government if help should 
come too late. The gathering tragedy impelled Courtney 
to reconsider his qualified acceptance of the policy of 
intervention in 1882. " I am a little disposed," he declared 
to his constituents in October, " to ask myself whether, if 
we could begin again, we should go to Egypt at all." Before 
long he was to reach the definite conclusion that it had been 
a mistake, and that Bright's resignation had been an act of 
wisdom as well as of courage. 

Khartum fell on January 26, 1885 ; but the expected 
news of the hero's death only reached London on February 5. 
During the brief period of agonising suspense Courtney 
addressed his constituents on " the one pressing question 
of the hour," appealing over the heads of his Uttle audience 
at Torpoint to the Prime Minister to stand firm against the 


hurricane of passion that was sweeping through the land. 
Gordon, he declared, had disobeyed orders, and instead of 
withdrawing the European garrisons had determined to 
" smash the Mahdi." We had done our best to save him, 
but we had failed. " I ask those who say we must still go 
and attack the Mahdi, even though the man we wish to rescue 
is dead, to tell me on what ground of moraUty and policy 
you justify such an attack ? It is said you must fight him 
sooner or later. Why ? Because he has considerable power 
in the Sudan. But do you wish to destroy his power in 
the Sudan ? Oh no, they say. But he will advance into 
Egypt. But had you not better wait and attack him as 
he advances ? We know the difficulty of going into the 
Sudan and fighting him there. In Eg5rpt we should be 
near our base ; and we should be fighting in self-defence 
If I stood alone and every one else in England were on the 
other side, I would protest against the notion of waging war 
against the Mahdi simply for the purpose of showing our 
might. The crimes that have been committed on the plea 
that you must beat a man who is getting too powerful are 
unnumbered, and please God we wiU not add to them. If 
you crush the Mahdi, what wiU you put in his place ? You 
will be confronted with a bigger problem than you have on 
your hands in Eg5^t. I should be the slowest of all to 
beUeve that an English Government with Mr. Gladstone at 
its head would give countenance to it." 

It required no small courage to criticise the hero of the 
hour and to rebuke the fierce cry for revenge. But it was 
not his habit to wait for either leaders or comrades when 
there was work to be done. His reference to Gordon's 
neglect of instructions brought a protest from the " only 
begetter " of the mission that had ended in heroic tragedy. 

From W. T. Stead 

February 19. — When you spoke in the West you were 
evidently under a misconception as to the scope and extent of 
General Gordon's mission. Might I take the liberty of asking 
you to glance at the enclosed pamphlet, which your reflections 
upon his memory and others of like nature have driven me to 


publish ? If on reading this statement of facts you are con- 
vinced that you did Gordon an injustice, I am sure you will 
lose no time in saying so as publicly as you said what you did 
about his exceeding his instructions. 

To W. T. Stead 

February 21. — I am obUged to you for your letter and early 
copy of your extra. I hope I should be ready to correct publicly 
any misstatement I had made respecting General Gordon if 
convinced of the misstatement, but I cannot see that I have 
been guilty of this, I have said that " smashing the Mahdi was 
no part of his original instructions," and this statement appears 
to me true in letter and spirit. In my speech in Cornwall I 
was examining the question what it is incumbent on us to do 
now, having regard to the poHcy of the Government, and I 
pointed out that " smashing the Mahdi " had not been part of 
their poHcy. The instructions given the General at starting 
did not extend to this ; his memorandum written on board 
shows that at the time he was conscious of a divergence of views 
between himself and the Government, but was ready to work 
out the more Umited task, or at least to attempt it. Sub- 
sequently he insisted on the necessity of doing more ; but I do 
not know that the Government ever admitted this necessity, 
nor can the permissive discretion given him be employed to 
fasten upon the Government an approval of his enlarged poUcy. 
Even if his poHcy was right it was not the Government poUcy ; 
and though the Government now appear to be adopting it more 
or less consciously, you must allow me still to believe it a bad 


February 1885. — Great excitement throughout the country 
and clamour for a forward poUcy, the Press almost unanimously 
pushing the Government deeper into the Sudan. Leonard at 
Torpoint and Mr. Morley at Glasgow almost alone raise their 
voices against any further bloodshed. 

Their protests seemed to be in vain ; for on the day after 
the newspapers announced the fate of Gordon, the Cabinet 
instructed Lord Wolseley to overthrow the Mahdi's power 
at Khartum. Yet even in those weeks of tense excitement 
there was more opposition than was revealed in the press. 


From Frederic Harrison 

February 14. — I cannot doubt that after your most cogent 
speeches which have seriously stemmed the war fever, you will 
go on to organise opinion in that sense. If you and Morley stir 
yourselves and use all that is open to you, you may form a 
powerful party and ultimately modify the policy of the Ministry. 
I presume you are already working to get round you members 
who will support you. I see that L. Stanley, Hopwood, Thomas- 
son have spoken distinctly, and I cannot doubt that you will 
have above thirty to forty English M.P.'s enabling you to be 
independent of W. Lawson, Labby and Irish. But what I 
want to press on you is not to despair of the opinion of the 
electors even in London, and to go straight to the country. No 
possible opposition can be constructed inside the House with 
this rotten end of a Parliament. If Gladstone could be got to 
go straight to the people, over the heads of the party and official 
world, he could do what he liked. Three speeches from him in 
Lancashire, Midlothian and the Midlands would even now destroy 
the war party altogether, though it might possibly break up 
his Cabinet. I congratulate you on your own splendid oppor- 
tunity. Your good genius has come down ex machina just 
when you most needed it. I was sorry you left the Ministry, 
for you know what I think about P. R. But now that is dead 
and buried here comes as fine a chance as ever came to a public 
man in sore need at the nick of time. And if you and Morley 
now use your chances, and can shake yourselves free of that 
House of Commons fog which blinds Gladstone, you wiU soon 
be on even terms with Dilke and Chamberlain. 

Another old comrade sent an encouraging message from 
the Riviera. 

From Sir Wilfrid Lawson 

February 15. — I cannot help sending you one Une of en- 
couragement in the splendid fight which you and John Morley 
— almost alone — are making against the madness of the British 
nation and its rulers. I read with the warmest admiration and 
approbation your speech which is reported in last Friday's 
Times. The most encouraging thing was that apparently the 
people agreed with your view of the matter. I suppose that 
three years of Liberal massacres are beginning to tell at last 
on the electorate, the same as Disraeli's five years of glory and 
gunpowder at last caused a reaction. You are luckier than I 


was when I attempted to stump the country against Gladstone's 
invasion of Egypt in 1882, for not only was I then absolutely 
alone, but the Liberal jingoes generally continued to make a 
disturbance at the meetings and prevent a fair statement of 
the case. 

When Parliament reassembled on February 19 the 
Conservatives naturally moved a vote of censure on the 
Government for their failure to relieve Gordon, and were 
supported by Goschen and Forster. The defence was lame 
enough, for all the world was aware that the delay was in 
part the result of divided counsels. Moreover, the Govern- 
ment spokesmen, deeming it unchivahrous to tell all they 
knew, and all that was to be revealed long afterwards by 
Lord Cromer, of Gordon's unfitness for his delicate task, 
offered an easy target for the shafts of the Opposition. 
The discomfort of Ministers was increased by the fact that 
while the Conservatives attacked them for having done too 
little, a body of their own Radical supporters blamed them 
for being about to do too much. An amendment to the 
Vote of Censure was moved by John Morley regretting " the 
decision of the Government to employ the forces of the 
Crown for the overthrow of the power of the Mahdi " ; and 
on the fourth and final day of the great debate Courtney 
delivered an impassioned oration in its support. Reviewing 
the divergent explanations and confessions of Ministers he 
fixed on the avowal of Lord Derby, the Colonial Secretary, 
that he now regarded our first intervention as a mistake. 
A second decision had now to be made — should we smash 
the Mahdi at Khartum ? The Government declared that 
we must ; and yet not a single Minister desired to remain 
in, still less to annex, the Sudan. When the news of Gordon's 
death arrived the Cabinet determined to fight, thinking 
that no Government could live unless it did so. If, however, 
we succeeded in smashing the Mahdi, what should we do 
with the Sudan ? Set up princelets who would need our 
constant support ? We must either withdraw or undertake 
to govern the country. " The issue before the nation rests 
on the decision of one man. At a whisper from him, a 
change of tone, a single utterance, it would rise to condemn 


that in which it now silently acquiesced. If this crowning 
responsibility is fuUy recognised, it may induce a half- 
reluctant Minister to do what only a great Minister can — 
retrace his steps and to undo the mischief which he has 
unwittingly carried forward." The peroration was heard 
in hushed silence, and all witnesses agree that Gladstone 
was visibly affected. 


February 26. — I hear his speech, the most powerful I ever 
heard from him. It makes a marked impression on the House, 
and the Prime Minister listens with undisguised sympathy, 
and I think with some wincing at the close. 

The verdict of the Ladies* Gallery is confirmed by an 
experienced observer on the Irish Benches. " As the 
evening advanced," wrote Mr. T. P. O'Connor,^ " the face 
of the Prime Mmister began to be overclouded, and he 
looked especially anxious while the speech of Mr. Courtney 
was being dehvered. The speech was one that might well 
make him uncomfortable. It was far and away the most 
damaging attack that has yet been made upon the Govern- 
ment, and was the first real exposition of the views of the 
Peace party. To judge by their applause, although it was 
low and timorous, the greater number of the Liberals agreed 
with the destructive criticism which he passed upon the 
pohcy of the Government, and nobody doubted that when 
he sat down he had made it harder than ever for any Liberal 
to vote for the plans of the Government." With the Front 
Benches united on a forward policy, it was no small triumph 
for the Peace party that 74 British and 40 Irish Members 
followed the two dissentient Radicals into the Division 

There was a good deal of heart-burning in Cornwall over 
the new mutiny ; and the editor of the Plymouth Mercury 
reinforced his pubhc rebukes by private exhortations, to 
which Courtney sent a brief and characteristic reply. 

Gladstone's House of Commons, p. 499. 



To Mr. Latimer 

March 15. — I am well aware of the immense power of the 
Prime Minister and of the risks I run in even appearing to differ 
from him ; but there are political issues so grave that they 
must be judged on their own merits, and our future must be 
full of danger if newspapers do not help men to think a Uttle 
for themselves even in the presence of the greatest names. 
For myself I think I shall be found incurably addicted to the 
Protestant right of private judgment. 

It was natural that resentment should be felt not only 
in Cornwall but in Downing Street. 


Easter. — Large dinner at York House,^ among others Mr. 
Chamberlain. He and L. pitch into each other very frankly, 
to the amusement of every one. Mr, C. warns L. that if he 
turns the Government out he will never get another seat for a 
Liberal constituency. 

Threats only stiffened Courtney's resolution. His wis- 
dom, moreover, was vindicated early in April by the Cabinet's 
decision to abandon the Sudan squth of Wady Haifa ; for 
Wolseley had pointed out the magnitude of the task of 
reconquest, and Sir Evelyn Baring advised against a further 
advance. A scarcely less important factor in the decision 
was the news which reached London on April 8 of a sudden 
and unprovoked Russian attack on Penjdeh, on the Afghan 
frontier. " Mr. Gladstone made a speech to-night," wrote 
Mr. T. P. O'Connor ^ on April 21, " which everybody is 
saying means war. In the first place he had to announce 
the abandonment of the expedition to Khartum, and the 
Radicals, like Mr. Morley and Mr. Courtney, who have so 
vigorously opposed that wild and imbecile scheme, at once 
burst into a cheer. Then came the ominous announcement 
that the meaning of this abandonment was to have the 
troops in the Sudan as well as all the other resources of 

^ Mr. Potter's house in Kensington. 
* Gladstone's House of Commons, p. 525. 


the Empire available for service wherever they may be 
required." But after obtaining a vote of credit from a 
unanimous House of Commons, Gladstone persuaded Russia 
to refer to the arbitration of the King of Denmark the 
incidents of the Penjdeh attack. Courtney had never lost 
confidence in the Prime Minister's good intentions, and 
attributed what he regarded as his errors to mahgn fortune. 
" Mr. Gladstone's ambition," he declared to his constituents, 
" is to live at peace with all the world, respecting the rights 
of every country,.great or small, infringing on the territory of 
none, anxious to use the influence of England in bringing 
about liberty throughout the world, but never imder the 
pretence of hberty carrying anywhere the flame of war. 
It is a grievous fact, lamented by none more than by Mr. 
Gladstone himself, that he has been obliged to devote so 
much time to foreign affairs ; but the difficulties have been 

On June 8 the Liberal Government was defeated on the 
Beer duties, and Lord SaUsbury took command with Lord 
Randolph Churchill as Chief of the Staff. Courtney shed 
no tears over the fall of a Ministry with which he had had 
such serious differences ; and his six months' wanderings 
in the wilderness had encouraged his natural tendency to 
independence. The new Premier was as pacific as his 
predecessor, and in the eyes of the Philosophic Radical 
Lord Randolph's Tory Democracy was as heretical as 
Chamberlain's Unauthorised Programme. During the few 
remaining weeks of the session the new Government did 
Kttle but mark time ; but a Bill to remove electoral dis- 
quaUfication by medical relief aroused the ire of the few 
individualists left in the ranks of the great parties. 


July 21. — A Medical Relief Bill is brought in, going far 
beyond what Mr. Jesse Ceilings himself would have ventured 
to propose. Leonard and a few — including our honest Con- 
servative Mr. Pell — fought it tooth and nail, but found few to 
go with them, though the majority of the Liberal Government 
and the Conservatives had pledged themselves to the old principle 


that all poor relief was to cut off the vote. But Mr. Chamberlain 
and his friends having raised it as an election cry, the two parties 
vie with each other as to who shall be most eager to meet the 
probable popular feeHng. L. made a very fine speech. 

Courtney's Spartan soul revolted at a proposal in which 
he detected a " thoughtless levity " now rapidly gaining 
ground in both political camps ; and with sublime disregard 
of the approaching election he placed on the paper a resolu- 
tion disapproving a measure " which removes an incentive 
to independence and fundamentally changes the principle 
under which pauperism has steadily diminished since 
1834." The receiver of alms, he argued, he who cannot 
support himself, was unfree, and therefore should not vote. 
It was said that only 60,000 would be affected ; but the 
number would grow. The gift would injuriously affect the 
character of the working-classes and would increase pauper- 
ism, as it had been increased by the Old Poor Law. " All 
efforts to raise their position wiU be Valueless if they are 
not encouraged to be independent and prudent. Only by 
giving them prudence to look before and after can we ever 
cure the nation of the curse of pauperism. The people at 
large will be degraded by the Bill, which will arrest the 
beneficent tendencies that have been in operation for the 
last thirty years." At these words Jesse CoUings cried out 
" Cruelty." " To make the people feel the consequences of 
their own acts," retorted the speaker, " to prevent them 
indulging in vice and pursuing improvidence, is not cruelty. 
If we would raise the people we must tell them that their 
position in the world depends on prudence." ^ 

The austere gospel of self-help contained an element of 
fortifying truth ; but it had been so often employed by 
selfish men to delay reforms and to palhate abuses that it 
was ultimately displaced by the rival theory of a minimum 
standard of life, to be attained by the active co-operation of 
the State. It was for the latter doctrine that Chamberlain 

^ "I do not care so much for Courtney's own disapproval," wrote 
Henry Sidgwick, who heard the speech, " as his poUtical economy makes 
it inevitable ; but I am afraid he is right in saying that practical philan- 
thropists are against it." Sidgwick' s Life, p. 418. 


had resolved to capture the Liberal party ; and his control 
of the machinery filled with apprehension the adherents of 
the older faith, who were denounced by the Birmingham 
captain as a set of poHtical Rip Van Winkles. 


July 22. — The day after L.'s speech on the Medical Relief 
Bill I had arranged a picnic to Burnliam Beeches. Mr. Chamber- 
lain talked a good deal and very frankly about politics ; but his 
tone was detestable and made me feel that if he becomes as he 
threatens to be the dominant power in the Liberal party, we 
shall have no such thing as real freedom in political life. It 
will all become an organised petty tyranny. Every politician 
however honest who does not conform exactly to the will of 
the majority of the party (and that wire-pulled to an extent 
only known to a few) will be cut off and denounced. The day 
will come when such Liberals as Leonard must fight this regime. 
Meanwhile organisation is going on apace with the Birmingham 
party, while the free are doing nothing except keep their reputa- 
tions undamaged by any intriguing or sacrifice of principle to 
election advantages. For some time I have thought that the 
independent and non-demagogic Liberals should also make 
themselves heard and insist on Lord Hartington coming more 
to the front. 

Courtney's impenitent individualism found utterance 
about the same time in a four-column review in the Times 
of the Inaugural Lecture of his friend Professor Marshall at 
Cambridge. Fifty years ago, he begins. Political Economy 
was filled with self-confidence, while its enemies, like Southey, 
were sad and sometimes almost hopeless. To-day economists 
were not so sure of their footing, while their enemies dis- 
played the insolence of victory. How far was this loss of 
authority the fault of its founders ? In admitting their 
shortcomings the Professor had been too apologetic. It 
was contended that they lacked the faith of the modems 
in the possibility of a vast improvement in the condition 
of the workers. It was true that they had not the philan- 
thropic spirit of to-day ; but they were essentially humane 
men. They beheved in the possibihty of a vast improve- 
ment, but thought it would come very slowly and only 


through the raising of the popular standard of social moraUty. 
" In a generation of political enfranchisement it is inevitable 
that cries for a swifter reformation of social evils should 
arise." Malthus would have agreed with Louise Michel, 
La PMlanthropie, c'est un mensonge. Henry George was 
not the first and would not be the last to beUeve that he 
had detected and could stanch the primary source of human 
misery. The older econoniists were not infaUible ; but the 
investigations of the latest thinkers left their great results 

The summer of 1885 was a period of drift and unsettle- 
ment. Lord Salisbury was in office but not in power, and 
nobody could forecast the issues or foretell the result of the 
autumn election. 

To John Scott 

August 6. — ^As to politics we are very much at sixes and 
sevens. It seems doubtful whether Gladstone will ever come 
back to public life. Hartington is hanging back, doing nothing 
in a large measure because he waits upon Gladstone — a con- 
sideration which does not hamper Chamberlain, who goes about 
the country proclaiming the strongest programme. It is a 
question whether he wiU not cause such defection as to endanger 
the Liberal majority at the General Election. Then a dismal 
scandal has happened about Dilke. As to myself my position 
in the House is certainly not worse — perhaps better — at the 
end of the session ; but I shall have trouble in fighting East 
Cornwall. I don't go far enough for some, especially the tee- 
totallers, and I am suspected of not swallowing as gospel every- 
thing Gladstone says. My opposition to the Medical ReUef 
Bill is also a rock of offence. 

Before leaving London at the end of the session Courtney 
and his wife visited Mr. Morley and found him " leaning 
more to L. and less to Mr. Chamberlain than he did. But 
with whom he wiU eventually side when the fight comes, 
as I think it will, it is difficult to say." " The fight " was 
to come ; but the struggle that had already begun between 
Birmingham Radicals and Hartingtonian Moderates was 
soon to be eclipsed in a fiercer struggle, in which Chamber- 
lain, Hartington and Courtney were to find themselves 


standing shoulder to shoulder against Gladstone and Morley. 
But these thunderclouds were still far away ; and the 
member for Liskeard spent part of his holidays in a yachting 
cruise to the north of Scotland and Norway. He landed 
in Liverpool on September 16, his mind full of the coming 
General Election ; and two days later he read Gladstone's 
manifesto in the papers. 


Leonard relieved and more than satisfied. It expressed his 
views almost identically, including a confession of error in 
Egypt and the Sudan, and will undoubtedly help him in fighting 
S.E. Cornwall. It is rather against Free Education and Dis- 
establishment for the present, though seeing that things are 
tending that way, and for freeing land and simplifying transfer 
before trying any experiments in Mr. Chamberlain's direction. 

The merging of the borough of Liskeard in the con- 
stituency of East Cornwall necessitated the delivery of a 
large number of electioneering speeches. The candidate's 
principal themes were Imperialism, Socialism, Free Trade 
and Home Rule. In regard to the first he defended his 
opposition to further bloodshed in the Sudan after the 
death of Gordon ; and his comrade in the fight, John 
Morley, came to Bodmin to claim a share in the merit. A 
campaign in Burma was now threatened ; but there was no 
justification for any war to enforce the contracts of British 
traders. Scarcely less detestable than Imperialism was 
Socialism. " The Liberal party has no socialistic views. 
In Mr. Gladstone's programme you will find plenty of work, 
but never a trace of socialism." The greatest task awaiting 
the party was the establishment of county self-govern- 
ment which would " sweep away the last refuge of clan 
supremacy." Free Education, which was being proclaimed 
by Chamberlain, might weaken the sense of responsibility 
and self-sacrifice, and, like Gladstone, he could only promise 
to examine a proposal which he frankly dishked. This 
pronoimcement provoked a rebuke which inflicted moment- 
ary pain. 


From John Morley 

November 6. — I have read your speech of last night with a 
feeling that I hardly expected to have stirred by any speech 
of yours. Surely you could have stated the objections to free 
schools without making a direct attack on Chamberlain, and 
the more especially as you admit that you have not yet made 
up your mind. The appeal to the old Birmingham League and 
to the Nonconformists is hardly worthy of you, considering that 
you have had no sort of sympathy with either. You wiU have 
as assuredly to go back from your present position about free 
schools as you have had to go back from your old position about 
county franchise. But you might have done this without 
making union and co-operation with your friends impossible. 
Excuse me for speaking frankly, but it comes to nothing less 
than that. If you had had a firm opinion it might have been 
different. I have tried pretty hard to make an eirenicon 
between you and the Radicals, but I must give it up as a bad 
job, and henceforth you and Jesse CoUings may fight it out 
between you. You will be worsted. 

To John Morley 

November 8, 1885, Penzance. — Your note was but a sorry 
greeting to me yesterday when we came here for two days' 
rest. My view on Free Education is this. My judgment is 
entirely against it except on the ground of the cost and trouble 
of collecting fees. But the question is an open one ; and when 
Harcourt, MundeUa, Lefevre and others are rushing to Chamber- 
lain's side it must be permissible to state the engagements on 
the other side. Twice only have I put the subject in my speeches. 
On each occasion I found a prepossession in favour of what 
Chamberlain had proposed, and on each occasion I influenced if 
I did not sway the judgment of the majority. Then are my argu- 
ments fair ? You complain of the reference to the League ; but it 
was necessary to bring out the point. Unless Chamberlain is to be 
above criticism utterances such as mine must be tolerated if the 
people are to be led to judge the issue. I am afraid he and Dilke 
have tried some of us very hard of late. It would be miserable 
if any feeHng arose between us, and indeed this must not be. I 
foresee the possibiHty or probabihty that I shall be an outsider. 
If Goschen is to be taboo why may not I meet the same fate ? 
But though your pains may thus appear to be thrown away, 
please forgive what may appear to be waywardness. Even a 
prosel5^e of the gate is not an enemy. Ever yours whatever comes. 


A third danger against which the candidate raised a 
wamiiig voice was Fair Trade, which he met by the doctrine 
that the welfare of the community must outweigh the 
interests of a locality or a trade. 


The Conservative candidate had been at St. Cleer a few 
days previously and had told the miners that protective duties 
would restore their prosperity. Our local friends urged L. to 
counter this by promising at any rate the abolition of royalties. 
I can still see the slightly scornful smile with which he received 
this advice ; but he said nothing and we went into the meeting. 
He began at once, " You have been told that a heavy duty on 
Australian and foreign copper and tin would reopen your mines 
and give you all employment and enable the men who have 
gone abroad to return. (Breathless silence.) It is quite true. 
But it would do something else." And then he described how 
this country had a great industry in the manufacture of tin 
goods for the whole world, and added " the duty you have been 
offered would throw thousands out of work elsewhere while 
it would put hundreds into work here. Knowing that, I should 
be ashamed of my fellow-countrymen if they desired or would 
accept it." The whole place cheered wildly, and I felt very 
proud of my candidate and his poor constituents. 

A still more threatening danger was the demand for 
Home Rule, which at least 85 PameUites would probably 
be returned to support. " There is a deep conviction in 
my mind," he declared at Liskeard, " that Ireland wiU 
interfere with some of the plans of the next Parhament. 
Its first great business will be to answer the question. Shall 
the Uriion be maintained ? " The Government had dropped 
coercion and were toying with Home Rule. " I hope 
there are hmits to the subserviency of the Conservative 
party to its master-spirits," ran his Election Address, " but 
the experience of recent months must have convinced all 
men that the only safeguard of the Union is the return to 
power of a Liberal Government strong enough to withstand 
all combinations, and no less resolutely bent on developing 
the loccil liberties of Ireland than on the maintenance of the 
Legislative Union." 


The candidate spoke to S5anpathetic audiences on 
Imperialism, Free Trade and Home Rule ; but his austere 
individuaUsm was less to their taste, and his action on the 
Medical Relief Bill was widely resented. ^ He solaced 
himself with the newly published biography of Fawcett, as 
stout an individuahst as himself. 

To Leslie Stephen 

December i8. — Your Life of Fawcett reached me in the midst 
of my campaign. It arrived at a most opportune hour. One 
of my difficulties was the opposition I had given to the Medical 
Relief Bill, and I was about to speak on this subject among others 
on the evening of the day when the book came. Naturally I 
turned to the book, and in the exposition of Fawcett's views 
and principles touching the redemption of the labouring poor 
from the servitude they suffer I found my best defence. Now 
we have lost the man there could not be a better work than 
that you have done so well of keeping fresh his character in 
the memory of those who knew him, and of making it familiar 
to other contemporaries and to those that shall come after. 
We are so infested with quacks, often sincere, that I am some- 
times inclined to despair. I feel Fawcett's loss continually. 
If Caimes and he were aUve now ! 

To restore the balance a certificate of merit was obtained 
from Hawarden. 

From W. E. Gladstone 

I deeply regretted on more grounds than one Mr. Courtney's 
resignation of his important office in the late Government, in 
which his services were of high value to the country. But I 
was and am sure that he did not by his loyalty to his conscience 
intend any disloyalty to his party. 

Despite his differences with Gladstone and Chamberlain, 
Courtney was returned for East Cornwall by the substantial 
majority of 1153. 

^ Jesse Collings had taken the unusual course of writing a denunciation 
of Courtney in the Cornish papers ; but during the Election the warm- 
hearted man, seized with remorse, arrived uninvited at a village meeting 
to support his candidature. 



The result of the elections was no surprise to Courtney, 
who had anticipated an overwhelming victory for Home Rule 
candidates in Ireland. With his usual habit of looking 
behind the representatives to the electors, he pointed out 
that while only half of those entitled to vote and two-thirds 
of those who actually voted supported Nationahsts, five- 
sixths of the Members returned were NationaUsts. But the 
careless public saw nothing except the eighty-six Home 
Rulers, and spoke of the voice of five-sixths of the people. 
The Irish Liberals, Catholic and Protestant, were left without 
representation, and the island was delivered over to the 
PameUites and the Orangemen. When the turmoil was 
over he wrote to thank Gladstone for his aid and added a 
warning against Home Rule, with which the Liberal leader 
was reported to be coquetting. 

To W. E. Gladstone 

December 7. — The last member for Cornwall has been elected, 
and the county returns seven Liberals to support you and no 
one to oppose. Now that our triumph is complete I hope you 
will forgive me if I send a word of thanks for the most valuable 
letter you wrote on my behalf on the eve of our poll. What it 
said must at all times have been most agreeable to me to read, 
and at that juncture it was most useful. I grieve that the 
majority throughout the kingdom has not been more decisive 
and that the peril of which you spoke in your first speech on 
arriving at Edinburgh cannot be said to be wholly removed. 
The Government will be bound to try and work on, but they 
can scarcely succeed, and some of their more sober spirits must 



wish to be relieved of an impossible and ungrateful task. I 
shrink a httle from speculating as to what may follow. The 
present temper of our friends in the South-West is one of bitter 
resentment at the malign action of the Irish party during the 
election ; but apart from this, which may perhaps pass away, 
there would be great reluctance to any legislation that would 
expose the Unionists, whether landowners or not, to scarcely 
veiled spoliation. A hostile tariff woiild be more endurable, 
though that would excite great irritation. I have long feared 
that Ireland might have to go through the discipHne of self-rule 
as the only way of arriving at better things ; but the predominant 
ideas of the leaders of the Irish party are so unsound that re- 
actionary legislation in respect of trade and pauperism would too 
probably reproduce much of the misery of the past. But this 
might be suffered if only the fear of injustice could be removed. 
It is not impossible that the Liberal party may find itself under 
the necessity of appealing to the country to support a larger 
measure of concession to Ireland than the country is for the time 
prepared to approve, and may so be placed for a season in a 
minority in Parliament. Pray excuse my writing thus freely 
to you at this moment. I will even venture to send you two 
articles which I wrote for an American review five years ago on 
Ireland which I am tolerably certain you have never seen. I 
cannot expect you to read them through, but there are parts 
that may interest you even now. 

From W. E. Gladstone 

December i8. — Your letter reached me in due course, and I 
am very glad to learn that mine was of use. I hope not only 
that in these capricious times you may keep your seat in ParUa- 
ment but also that on a proper opportunity your practical 
abihties may again be enUsted in the service of the Crown and 
country. I have now read your able papers ; but comparing 
them with your letter I am not sure that they accord with your 
present views. Indeed I am not very sure that I see what those 
views are ; but I understand you may mean that the Liberal 
party may have to take up the advocacy of a large concession to 
Ireland in the matter of Government, and may have to suffer 
a little martyrdom for it. From neither of these propositions 
do I dissent. A great thing has to be done, the state of Ireland 
permitting. But my first and great desire is that it should be 
done by the present Government. Only a Government can do 
it ; and a Tory Government, if endued with the requisite courage, 
can do it best. Of this I make no secret. 


The day before this letter was written Herbert Gladstone 
informed Wemyss Reid, editor of the Leeds Mercury, that 
his father was prepared to resume office and to introduce a 
Home Rule Bill ; and though a telegram from Hawarden 
denied the accuracy of the statement, its cautious wording 
left Uttle doubt as to the substantial truth of the momentous 
communication. Two days later Courtney repHed to his old 
chief ; and, while making no reference to the " Hawarden 
Kite," he reiterated his opposition to Home Rule. 

To W. E. Gladstone 

December 19. — I am very much gratified with your letter 
and your confidences, and cannot too strongly express my thanks 
for them. As you intimate some uncertainty about my present 
views, perhaps you will allow me briefly to explain them. I 
still entertain to the full my belief of 1880 that Home Rule for 
Ireland would mean bad rule — probably unjust, certainly unwise 
and tending to material and social misery. But the situation 
has materially changed. The demand for self-government has 
developed in Ireland, and the representative machinery adopted 
has given it exaggerated strength in the House of Commons. 
Nevertheless, if I could have my own way and could rely on 
stability of support from others, I should still refuse Home 
Rule. I would begin by curbing the means of mischief of the 
Irish representatives at Westminster, which I look upon as a 
test of our national resolution in this matter. I would go on 
to establish free county government, I would feel my way to 
Provincial Conferences, and I would admit of Irish Grand Com- 
mittees at Westminster ; and simultaneously with these I 
would exert all the authority of the Empire to assure the dominion 
of law in Ireland. But this programme requires stabihty of 
purpose and steady maintenance to have any prospect of success, 
and I sorrowfully confess that reliance cannot be placed on this 
steadiness either inside or outside Parliament. Therefore I am 
drawn to the apprehension I expressed in my last letter that 
Ireland is doomed to go through the furnace of Home Rule, 
though I should be very loath to have anything to do with 
laimching the experiment. I am very glad to read that you 
think the present Government should grapple with the question. 
It cannot be our burden till they have proved their incapacity, 
and they too may plead that Mr. Parnell shall distinctly formulate 
his own demands. Frankly I do not think any Government 


could undertake and finish the work now. Not until after some 
violent oscillations and probably more than one dissolution is 
it likely to be performed. Nobody has had such a job since 
the time of Mr. Pitt, and it is sad to note the levity of those who 
talk and write as if it could be done with a stroke of the pen or 
a phrase of the tongue. 

When his wife read his outspoken attack on the presumed 
policy of the Liberal leader, she exclaimed, " Bang goes the 
Chancellorship." His disapproval of the new departure 
was shared by not a few prominent Liberals who afterwards 
reluctantly accepted Home Rule, among them his old chief 
at the Home Office. 


December 23. — Sir William Harcourt told Leonard at the 
Reform Club that he had been at a thanksgiving meeting at 
Derby and gone from there to spend the Sunday at Birmingham 
with Chamberlain. " You did not find him in a very thanks- 
giving state of mind, I imagine," said Leonard. " No, indeed," 
was the answer. " After the first greeting it was nothing but 
Damn ! Damn ! Damn ! all day long." " What a pious Sunday 
you two must have spent," returned Leonard. Sir WiUiam is 
kt present brave against Home Rule. How long this mood will 
last it would be difficult to say. 

Unlike most of his contemporaries, Courtney was not in 
the least surprised by the sudden emergence of Home Rule 
as the dominant issue of British poHtics. He had foretold 
its coming, and he had long ago made up his mind to oppose 
it. He was the author of the uncompromising leader in the 
Times on July i, 1874, on Isaac Butt's celebrated motion. 
" In manner and substance he was excellent ; but the argu- 
ment completely failed to convince. The advocacy of Home 
Rule is hopeless. His petition for an Irish Parhament flows 
from his cardinal error that the inhabitants of Ireland are 
a separate nation." In his first session he supported the 
second reading of Butt's Land BiU to improve the position 
of Irish tenants ; but when a speaker described it as a 
measure of Home Rule, he rejoined that the more attention 
the proposal received the greater would be the injury in- 
flicted on an agitation which, if successful, would bring an 


immense amount of misery and wretchedness upon Ireland. 
He supported the Bill as the best method of avoiding Home 
Rule, since it would reveal a desire on the part of Parliament 
to meet requirements and remove objections. 

His views were first explained in detail after a visit in 
1880 in two singularly frank articles in an American Review. ^ 
" The government of Ireland," he begins, " has once again 
become a subject of perplexity to the Parliament of the 
United Kingdom. It would seem that the unrest and dis- 
satisfaction of the mass of the inhabitants are as great as 
ever. Throughout half or more than half of its area meetings 
are held week after week to demand the estabhshment of an 
independent legislative authority, so far at least as regards 
the domestic affairs of its people, and there are no gatherings 
to be set against them. Mr. Pamell, though a Protestant 
and a landowner, is now the most popular man in the country 
because he has been the most persistent and effective enemy 
of government by the Parliament of the United Kingdom. 
His eminence is a demonstration of a feehng of alienation 
from Great Britain. Large masses of Irishmen still look 
upon themselves as strangers, if not as enemies, to the 

After thus recognising disagreeable facts in language 
which might have formed the exordium to an oration by 
Isaac Butt, he passes to a defence of present-day England. 
The passionate hatred of the past was only too easy to under- 
stand, for we were humiliated by the story of the cruelties 
and the injustice enforced or supported by our forefathers. 
But had we not repented of all this ? Had we not done our 
best to make amends for the past ? Surely there was a time 
when Nature might be allowed to cover the battlefields of 
history. Despite Glencoe, Scotchmen and EngUshmen had 
long since agreed to dwell together in unity. Catholic 
Emancipation, Disestablishment, Reform of the Land 
Laws had followed in rapid succession. By slow degrees 
all inequalities had been removed in the government of 
Ireland. Yet it seemed that all this labour had been in vain. 
For Conservatives the situation was comparatively simple. 

^ The International. 


If Irishmen were stUl irreconcilable, they must be ovemiled 
like unreasonable children. For Liberals such language 
was impossible, for they recognised the free vote of a nation 
as the supreme determinant of its destiny. And yet even 
if the demand for Home Rule were strong, steady and serious, 
the experiment of setting up a local legislature could not be 
entertained in view of the qualifications of the electors and 
of those who would probably be elected. " A legislature in 
Dublin would develop many virtues now existing in a 
merely rudimentary condition ; and Home Rule never comes 
before my mind with such plausibility as when I think it 
might perhaps make Irish politicians grave, sober and 
cautious. A sense of responsibility would be awakened. 
Men would feel that they were being put on their mettle. 
And Mr. Pamell is intrinsically a reasonable person." Yet 
all evidence went to show that the most vicious projects of 
national improvement would command assent, and that the 
social condition of Ireland was not sufficiently healthy to 
bear the strain of such experiments. No real statesman had 
yielded to the cry, and no Member of Parliament except 
Joseph Cowen, a chartered libertine, had favoured it. " The 
language of Liberal leaders and Liberal followers has been 
unequivocal and peremptory. They have declared that 
under no circumstances would they consent ; and this 
language undoubtedly corresponds to the will of the people 
of Great Britain. But underneath this firm exterior there 
must exist searchings of heart among some ; and it cannot 
be surprising if Irishmen are found to hope that the vehement 
refusal they now encoimter may hereafter be modified." 

Why should not the Imperial Parliament establish a 
subordinate legislature in Dublin if the great majority of 
the inhabitants of Ireland seriously desire it ? In answering 
this question we must first be sure that Home Rule is indeed 
seriously desired. Yet a very large proportion of elected 
Home Rulers were halting advocates of the policy, and the 
movement for Home Rule was much feebler than O'Connell's 
movement for Repeal, which collapsed with startling 
suddenness. The danger lay in the fact that the Irish people 
was ripe to receive and apply the wildest socialist dreams. 


" I confess that I recoil from this prospect. Even though 
the demand for Home Rule were much more serious than I 
estimate it, I should fixedly resist a change threatening the 
gravest mischief to the immediate future of Ireland." All 
the more must the Imperial Parhament deal with Land 
reform, the one subject on which Irish complaints were 

The articles are of historical as well as of biographical 
interest as the confession of a thoughtful Liberal some years 
before Home Rule became a question of practical politics. 
The author has no fears for Ulster, for the Imperial connec- 
tion or for the Protestant faith. His opposition arises solely 
from his beUef that the Irish are unfit to manage their own 
affairs. His hostility was confirmed by the agrarian and 
other outrages of the following years ; but in the debates 
and controversies which occupied and agitated the Parlia- 
ment of 1880 he could take little part. He was neither a 
Cabinet Minister, entitled to a share in the shaping of pohcy, 
nor a private member at liberty to discuss it. He supported 
a simultaneous policy of coercion and reform ; but he was 
bitterly disappointed that the judicial fixing of rents under 
the Land Act of 1881 was powerless to arrest the growth 
of discontent. He constantly referred to Irish affairs in 
speeches to his constituents, one of which brought a warm 
eulogy from the well-known historian of Tudor and Stuart 

From Richard Bagwell 

Clonmel, February 8, 1883. — I have read your speech at 
Liskeard, and it shows more real knowledge of Ireland than 
any public man has lately evinced. So-called nationaUsm is 
Janus Bifrons. With one mouth it demands separation, with 
the other assimilation to England. The party of disorder is now 
weak owing to the disclosures in Dublin. It is for this very 
reason that I wish to urge the necessity of dealing with Irish 
County Government. The Grand Jury system ought not to 
stand a year longer. There is a good deal of ability and honesty 
among Grand Jurors, but the system is past despair. 

The suggested reform had to wait till 1898, and mean- 
while the energies of the Government were monopolised 



by the struggle with insurgent Nationalism. The critical 
nature of the situation was brought home to him by a visit 
to DubHn in 1883. 


November 20, 1883. — Spent a week with the George Trevelyans 
at the Chief Secretary's Lodge in Phoenix Park. Both very 
kind and pleasant to us, but we found it rather oppressive Uving 
in such a state of siege — odious for them it must be. Soldiers 
and detectives guarding every step, even their small boy. Grand 
dinner at the Viceregal Lodge ; quite a little bit of State cere- 
monial. Lord and Lady Spencer very friendly. I do think 
it is self-denying of them to be there. 

Courtney would have resigned office in 1884 had there 
been no Ireland ; but his detestation of single-Member 
constituencies was intensified by his conviction that it would 
bring Home Rule into the foreground of pohtics. " The 
condition of Ireland is such as to fill me with anxiety," he 
wrote in a prophetic article on Redistribution in the Fort- 
nightly Review of January 1885. "It is quiet, thanks to 
the operation of a most stringent Crimes Act ; but the 
temper of discontent, not to say ahenation, breaks out 
irrepressibly in the greater part of the island wherever there 
is a chink for its manifestation. Into this country it is 
proposed to introduce a machinery of election that wiU 
represent to the kingdom and the world that nine-tenths of 
its inhabitants are passionately demanding autonomy, if 
not separation. The parceUing out of the island into one- 
membered districts will result in the election of some ninety 
Members claiming Home Rule, while ten or a dozen Orange 
Tories are found alone arrayed against them. We know 
that it wiU not truly represent the opinion of the country. 
The Liberals of Ireland, who cUng to the unity of the Legis- 
lature, are not what they were ; but they are still in the 
aggregate a large mass, although they might fail to get a 
single voice to speak for them in Parhament. What must 
be the effect upon popular opinion in Ireland of the apparent 
spectacle of three provinces and a large slice of the fourth 
imanimously demanding Home Rule ? And what must 


be the effect upon popular feeling in England also ? We 
may say with truth that the appearance is a gross mis- 
representation of the fact ; but it will be a very hard struggle 
to keep this distinction aUve in the minds of the Enghsh 
people, especially if the vote of a large cohort in Parhament 
may make it convenient for any party leader to pass it by. 
Ireland in Parhament will be Ireland manipulated and 
divided so as to exclude moderation of temper and judg- 
ment. We are going to swell the clamour to which it may 
hereafter be said that we must 5deld." 

When Lord Sahsbury dissolved Parhament in October 
1885 PameU, who had had a secret interview with Lord 
Carnarvon, the Lord Lieutenant, and entertained Hvely 
hopes of Lord Randolph Churchill, instructed Irish 
voters throughout Great Britain to support Conserva- 
tive candidates. Throughout the contest Courtney's 
imagination was haunted by the vision of a Parnellite 
triumph, followed by the capitulation of one or other of 
the historic parties. 

To Edward O'Brien {an Irish Liberal) 

LooE, October 18. — Your letter has followed me here, where 
I am electioneering. I am much preoccupied with Ireland, and 
indeed it is always more or less in the background of my thoughts. 
At present I am nearly given over to despair. The first thing to 
be done is to drive into the heads of the Enghsh and Scotch people 
the truth that though Pamell may get eighty-five per cent of Irish 
members he has not eighty-five per cent of the Irish people. If 
it is once accepted that there is such a proportion of separatists 
in Ireland, the doom of the Union would be certain. I should 
therefore rejoice very heartily if the opponents of separation 
could register themselves by voting even when there is no hope 
of returning a candidate ; but I fear it will be practiccdly im- 
possible to stir up men to vote in the face of certain defeat. We 
ought as soon as Parliament meets to press for the adoption of 
rules that would secure the authority of the House over the 
PameUites. They have won their position by their defiance of 
Parliament, and I would give them their first throw in a wrestle 
over this question. But even then more must be done. We 
cannot now stop where we have stood. The late Government 
had apparently agreed upon a National Council, which seems to 


me open to most of the objections without some of the advantages 
of a National Parliament. Lord Salisbury looks almost wistfully 
at Federation, which he dismisses for the present. Mr. Childers 
surrenders the pohce to some kind of Home Rule organisation, 
and Lord Rosebery wants Home Rule though he scarcely dare 
say so. No wonder Parnell is assured he will win. 

The result of the election confirmed Courtney's darkest 
anticipations. After Gladstone had vainly invited Lord 
Salisbury to deal with the new situation, promising him 
Liberal support for a generous measure of autonomy, he 
resolved to tackle it himself. He was deeply impressed by 
the sweeping triumph of the Home Rulers at the first appeal 
to the country on a democratic franchise, and he was sick 
of the futility of coercion. His colleagues and intimates 
who knew that his mind had been moving in the direction 
of Home Rule before the dissolution were prepared for the 
announcement of a conversion which to hostile observers 
appeared suspiciously sudden. The first impression in 
Liberal circles was one of bewilderment, which was increased 
by the discovery that the trusted leaders of the party were 
hopelessly divided. Amid the welter of controversy and 
suspicion Courtney had at any rate the satisfaction of know- 
ing his own mind. His path might be painful ; but it was 
perfectly clear. 

To Miss Tod 

December 30. — Those who have carefully watched Mr. Glad- 
stone's utterances must have been aware that his mind has been 
occupied with the possibilities of Home Rule for some years. 
I am not surprised by what has happened recently, but I am not 
the less greatly disquieted. I do not think that Home Rule 
will be at once adopted. If Mr. Gladstone definitely puts it 
forward, it would seem probable that the Liberal party will 
lose such a section in Parliament and still more in the country 
as to be in opposition for some years. Should this come to pass 
we should have to fear that the party would be reconstructed 
with Home Rule as a leading item in its programme, and that 
sooner or later, and not very late, the thing would be conceded 
out of mere weariness and England would suffer, but Ireland 
would be nigh ruined. None of the checks that have been 
proposed seem to be of any use I will not say none can be 


devised, but I have not seen any that could be trusted if Ireland 
had one Parliament. Property, education, trade, pauperism, 
the judicial bench, the police, — under each of these heads I see 
unchecked danger. I should therefore simply resist as long as 
I could, although in no sanguine mood. I would of course give 
County Government (reserving the police) and I would establish 
at Westminster Grand Committees for Irish business. Pro- 
vincial assembhes might save you in Ulster, but would leave the 
Liberals of Leinster and the South at the mercy of the popular 

The bitterness of the situation was enhanced for the 
Unionist champions of Proportional Representation by the 
total disappearance of Irish Liberalism which they had so 
clearly foretold. From one of these virtually disfranchised 
Irish Liberals came a cry of distress. 

From the 0' Conor Don 

December 20. — I think in writing to you last year I esti- 
mated that the Irish representation would be about 85 Liberal 
Nationalists and the remainder almost exclusively Orange Tory. 
I know that some of my friends here at that time ridiculed my 
forecast, and I was told that the Liberals in the North would 
not only hold their own but increase their strength. Well, the 
result now is that there is not a single representative from all 
Ireland calling himself a Liberal, and the Tories in the North 
are of the most pronounced Orange class. This is the result 
of the single-seat constituencies without provision for minority 
representation. No one that knows anjrthing about Ireland can 
maintain that this is a true representation of the feeHngs of the 
country. One necessary consequence of the present representa- 
tion is that every Catholic who wishes to have any voice or 
influence in the Legislature or government of the country must 
join the Nationalists, and it seems to me that it will be next to 
impossible to govern Ireland constitutionally against the will 
of 86 per cent of the representatives. 

To the 0' Conor Don 

January 2, 1886. — No doubt our worst anticipations have 
been reaUsed in the General Election, and it is grievous that we 
should have piped to deaf ears ; but the practical question now 


is how to prevent the mischief going further. I am not disposed, 
whatever my fears, to give up the battle as wholly lost. We are 
now under the temptation Gladstone foresaw and deprecated in 
his first speech in Midlothian before re-election. If not abso- 
lutely in a minority we are not in a majority without the Irish 
vote, and the attraction of that vote is terrible. It is so easy 
too to give a pretty colour to abandonment. If the Liberal 
party is to maintain or the bulk of its members to assist in 
maintaining the fight for the Union against Separation, they 
will need the assistance the Liberals, especially the Catholic 
Liberals of Ireland, can give ; and they can give much in speech 
and writing if not in votes. We want moral strength, and you 
can help us to be strong. I should Uke to see multipHed in 
every form evidences of the forces teUing for Union which 
will not be represented in the House of Commons. You need to 
be instant about Grand Jury Reform. Would it be possible 
to add on to County Government any scheme of Provincial 
Assemblies ? 

The opening weeks of 1886 were filled with nimours, 
discussions and speculations. A few Liberal Members were 
known to approve Home Rule, while Hartington and Goschen 
were known to oppose it ; but the majority of the party 
hesitated to commit themselves, unable or unwilling to make 
up their minds on a subject of infinite complexity to which 
they had devoted but little reflection. Courtney took no 
public action for the present, and contented himself with 
discussing plans for checkmating the enemy. 

To Lord Hartington 

January 15. — I have reason to believe that the Government 
has had under consideration the following of Lord Grey's prece- 
dent in 1833 in putting in the Speech from the Throne a declara- 
tion to maintain the Legislative Union between Great Britain 
and Ireland. O'Connell had told his followers that the Reformed 
ParUament would give back to Ireland its Parliament, and this 
was met by the King's declaration. O'Connell was very angry 
and moved an amendment which was supported by thirty-four 
Irish, five English and one Scotch. If the Government are 
ready to challenge Pamell they could scarcely do better than 
copy Lord Grey. They might fall immediately afterwards, but 
they would fall with dignity and they would at least embarrass 

xn HOME RULE 247 

their opponents. I am more fully satisfied than ever that the 
key of the situation lies in Reform of Procedure. If the two 
sides of the House cannot lay aside party spirit enough to make 
such a reform as shall secure the passing of legislation desired 
by a great majority, the battle is already lost. We must over- 
come Separatists in the House if we are to overcome Separation 
in Ireland. Unless we are resolved on this, and can stick to our 
resolution whatever outrages follow, the prospect is hopeless. 

The new session opened on January 21. The Queen's 
Speech contained no repudiation of Home Rule, and the 
debate on the Address failed to provide the desired clarifi- 
cation. Gladstone's speech was non-committal, Pamell 
cautious and reasonable ; and Hartington, having no overt 
challenge to meet, refused to make the outspoken declara- 
tion against Home Rule which his more ardent followers 
demanded. Mrs. Courtney, perhaps an even more ardent 
Unionist than her husband, watched the debate from the 
Ladies' Gallery, and heard nothing to her taste till on 
the second day Mr. Arthur Elliot rose from behind the 
Front Opposition Bench and entreated his leaders to lead. 
Hartington, however, contented himself with summoning 
Chamberlain and a few other friends to Devonshire House 
to discuss Procedure. Before the meeting the host confided 
to Courtney that his difficulty about opposing Home Rule 
was that he could not see how the House could go on 
with the Irish members in it, however stringent the new 
rules of Procedure might be. 


January 25. — L. comes home to dinner and is evidently 
making up his mind to speak on the Irish question when it 
comes on again a few days hence. He gives me a sketch of 
what he would say, — rather leading men to consider the Home 
Rule question in all its bearings than attacking it, as he is very 
loath to put himself forward ostentatiously against Mr. Glad- 
stone. He hesitates about going back to the House, but finally 
goes. Comes back at 1.15 with astounding news. Government 
nearly defeated on amendment proposing the three F's in farm 
tenures. Lord Hartington, Goschen, Sir Henry James, Leonard 
and seven other Liberals voting with them, while all the Opposi- 


tion and the Irish support it. It is made known that Mr. Jesse 
Coilings' amendment is to be supported by the whole strength 
of the Opposition. It is understood that Mr. Chamberlain and 
his party thus give their adherence to Mr. Gladstone's Home 
Rule policy in return for his support of their socialistic poUcy. 
If this comes about it is an iniquitous compact. The Govern- 
ment may be beaten, but Mr. Gladstone must be discredited 
with all honest pohticians who are not bhnd worshippers. The 
real issue is Home Rule ; but the cunning old leader, not finding 
he can successfully raise it, is going to catch the votes of his 
followers on this and other matters and then, I suppose, squeeze 
them gradually into his Irish views. I wonder how many will 
stand out and lose their seats in consequence. 

Courtney detested the Birmingham brand of " socialism " 
almost as heartily as Plome Rule ; and he had no desire that 
a party pledged to the one and likely to swallow the other 
should return to power. When Jesse Coilings' amendment 
to the Address was put to the vote he again supported the 
Government, in common with sixteen other Liberals, among 
them Lord Hartington, Goschen, Sir Henry James and 
Arthur Elliot. No such momentous division had taken 
place since the repeal of the Corn Laws ; for it inaugurated 
a working alliance between the bulk of the Liberal party and 
the Irish Nationalists on the one hand, and between the 
Conservatives and the Liberal Unionists on the other. On 
that night the lines were marked out along which British 
poUtics were to travel till the outbreak of war in 1914. 


January 27. — L. came home at 2.30 a.m. and told me all 
was up ; Government beaten by 79, including 74 ParneUites. 
He had voted with sixteen other Liberals against the amendment. 
Rather depressed at the situation. Chamberlain triumphant ! 
It is a great success for him to have so rapidly converted Mr. 
Gladstone to one point of the unauthorised programme. One 
curious incident was that after ChapHn and other Conservatives 
had attacked the Compulsory Allotment scheme, Mr. Balfour 
rose at the very end and said the Conservative Government had 
got the same scheme in their Local Government Bill. L. said to 
Lord Hartington and Sir Henry James, " Under these circum- 


stances we might walk out " ; but Lord H. would not do this, 
and L. did not like at the last moment to desert him. It would 
have saved a good deal of trouble in Cornwall had he done so. 

A few hours after the fatal division Courtney wrote to 
one of his constituents to explain his vote. The letter 
appeared not only in the press of the West of England but in 
the Times. 

To a Constituent 

January 27. — I daresay some of my Bodmin friends may be 
discussing my vote against Mr. Jesse Collings, and though I 
think they will see I could not have voted with him, I should 
certainly have conferred with them on the subject had time 
permitted. You will remember how again and again during the 
contest I said I should not support Mr. Collings' scheme. I was 
not prepared to give compulsory powers of taking lands to let 
again to local bodies until at least we had learnt by experience 
how freely land could be got when landowners were relieved 
from the fetters imposed upon them by the system of settlements. 
All this was not9rious, and indeed when Mr. Collings came to 
Menheniot I took care to tell the meeting that though he and I 
were very good friends we had differed seriously, did differ and 
probably should differ in future. How then could I join in 
voting to turn out the Government for not putting into the 
Queen's Speech proposals I said I could not support myself ? 
All those who had voted for me on the faith of my declaration 
would have justly accused me of deceiving them. 

Letters poured in from East Cornwall, some of them com- 
mending his fidelity to principle, others bitterly complaining 
that on a vote of no confidence he had supported the Tory 
Government, and warning him that neither time nor events 
would erase the memory of his first votes in the new Parlia- 
ment. The wrath of a section of Liberals was shared by the 
leader of the party. 


January 30. — Tea with Dolly Tennant (later Lady Stanley). 
She had been dining in company with Gladstone. She said he 
was in great spirits and vigour, and among other things and 
people Leonard was discussed. He was regretting the absence 
of financial talent among the Liberals now. It used to be our 


great distinction, he said, as compared with our opponents ; 
but we have not an economist among us now. Dolly said, 
" Oh ! but isn't there Mr. Courtney ? " " Mr. Courtney," was 
the answer, " has the most remarkable financial head in the 
House. His talents at the Treasury were beyond praise. But," 
he added angrily, " the other night he deserted me. There was 
not the slightest necessity. CoUings' amendment committed 
him to nothing. Courtney is one of the ablest men in the House ; 
but he lacks the spirit of accommodation. He is full of crotchets. 
He left me last year on a fad about Proportional Representation." 

The Member for East Cornwall was well aware that his 
vote on the Ceilings amendment had destroyed any chance 
of office.^ and he learned of the formation of the new Govern- 
ment from his friends. On January 31 he dined with 
Chamberlain and sat next to Mr. Morley, who whispered to 
him that he had been offered and accepted (with many 
doubts as to his fitness) the Irish Secretaryship with a seat 
in the Cabinet. The appointment was symptomatic, for 
Mr. Morley was an avowed Home Ruler. He also learned 
that his host had refused the Admiralty and accepted the 
Local Government Board. Four days later the new Ad- 
ministration was complete, aU the leading members of the 
previous Liberal Ministry finding a place except Lord 
Hartington and Sir Henry James. To the general surprise 
Lord Spencer and Mr. Trevelyan accepted office in what, 
despite the official formula that it was only pledged to inquiry, 
was universally regarded as a Home Rule Administration. 
Courtney's conception of the duty of Liberals was explained 
to a friend who came to ask whether he ought to accept a 
minor appointment in the new Government. 


February 7. — L.'s view of the situation was that in all prob- 
abiUty Home Rule was now inevitable, owing primarily to Mr. 
Gladstone and in a lesser degree to the statesmen who have 
joined his Government. He does not anticipate sufficient 

1 " The Government was defeated last night," wrote Lord Esher. 
" Hartington, Goschen, Derby, H. James and Courtney will have to 
remain outside a new Government" (Journals, 1880-1895, 144). 

xn HOME RULE 251 

resistance in the House of Commons to prevent it passing. If 
it does pass, the House of Lords would of course reject it and 
there would be a dissolution. The country might reject the 
Gladstone Government, but Home Rule being incorporated into 
the programme of the party must pass within a few years ; and 
those would be years of fierce agitation. To the question whether 
a Liberal who beheved it would bring disaster on Ireland, but 
also believed it was now fated to come, could join the Government 
in a subordinate post L.'s answer was that he at any rate would 
feel more comfortable outside. 

On the following day he discussed the situation in a 
letter to one of his oldest friends. 

To H. J. Rohy 

February 8, 1886. — I have not been asked to be Chairman 
of Committees, but I think it possible I may be. I have not 
been asked, and did not expect to be asked to take any other 
post. Whether if asked I shall become Chairman I do not 
know. My present inchnation is towards acceptance, the post 
not being ministerial. I should be prepared to go a long way 
on the Irish question if necessary ; but, holding that Home 
Rule means increased social misery for many years with a most 
doubtful and hazardous chance of recovery after a generation 
or so, I was not prepared to give way without at least trying to 
rule the House of Commons. It looks as if there is to be a sur- 
render to the eighty-six, and indeed the motive of action avowed 
by Morley at Chelmsford (and privately on many occasions) is 
the necessity of getting the Irish representation out of the House. 
This seems to me rather pitiable. However, Gladstone's action 
has probably made that inevitable which was not so, and if not 
in the present Parliament, then in the ParHament after the next, 
say in six years. Home Rule wiU be carried. Accepting this, my 
desire is that when carried it shall be in the form of a Colonial 
Constitution, not a Federation. A Federation would perpetuate 
friction, remonstrances, ill-will, as against which a hostile tariff 
would be a cheap alternative. I beheve all Irishmen not Par- 
neUites are in despair, and not a few PameUites are scared at the 
prospect of getting what they said they wanted. 

It was generally anticipated that Courtney would be 
offered the post of Chairman of Committees. His know- 
ledge of constitutional history and precedent was profound. 


and he possessed a complete acquaintance with the forms 
of the House. His resignation had made him available for 
occasional service at the table ; and in the session of 1885 
he often took the place of Sir Arthur Otway, when he was 
too imwell to attend. Never lacking in self-confidence, he 
employed the authority entrusted to him with the assurance 
of an old Parliamentary hand. " One Friday night," wrote 
his wife in her Journal, " he came home in great spirits, 
having called half the House to order, including the Grand 
Old Man. The Prime Minister took it very well, and 
afterwards expressed his admiration to Mr. Rathbone." 
Goschen, who shared the behef that the post would be 
offered to him, expressed a hope that he would not tie his 
hands in the coming struggle for the Union. 

On February 16, Mr. Morley came to tell his friend that 
the Prime Minister would only be too glad if he would accept 
the Chairmanship of Committees. When the House met on 
February 18 without any communication from Downing 
Street, it looked as if he had changed his mind ; but next 
morning the expected messenger arrived at Cheyne Walk 
at 12 o'clock. 

From W. E. Gladstone 

Bearing in mind the communications between us at the time 
when I failed to avert your resignation, you will not be surprised 
when I say how happy I should have been to number you among 
the members of the present Government. But an intimation 
which reached me impressed me with the belief (I had also read 
your printed essays on the Irish question) that you might find 
obstacles in your way, while at the same time you would not be 
disinclined to accept the important office of Deputy Speaker 
and Chairman of Committees, for which you are (I think) univer- 
sally considered to have unrivalled qualifications. I was doubtful 
yesterday whether we should be in a condition to set up Supply 
to-day, or I should have addressed this note to you before we 
met in Parliament. Its object is to request that you will permit 
me to propose to-day that you take the Chuir, and I am sure that 
your assent will give just and lively satisfaction. 

No time was allowed for consideration ; but as the 
office was non- political and the Prime Minister's letter 

xn HOME RULE 253 

conceded freedom from responsibility on the Irish question, 
the offer was accepted, and the messenger carried back the 

To W. E. Gladstone 

I am extremely grateful for the very kind and flattering 
words in which you invite me to be proposed to the House as 
Deputy Speaker this evening. Had time permitted I should 
like to have withheld my reply until I had an opportunity, 
which perhaps you would have afforded me, of a few minutes' 
conversation on the position of the Chairman and to have con- 
sulted one or two intimate friends ; but any delay in decision 
must now cause embarrassment not to be justified without 
stronger hesitation than I feel. I therefore accept with sincere 
gratitude your offer, relying on your kindness in the future as 
it has been abundantly manifested in the past. 

After despatching his reply Courtney called on 
Hartington, who approved, and Goschen, who acquiesced, 
and then hurried into his dress clothes. The acceptance of 
the post removed him from the fighting hne. But though 
unable to raise his voice in public protest against Home 
Rule, his opinions were well known to his party, and his 
opposition was not without influence on the wavering 
throng. " In the early days of the short-lived Parliament 
of 1886," writes Mr. Arthur Elliot, " the hearty support 
given by Leonard Courtney to the cause of the Union was 
of no smaU importance. His previous career and known 
independence of character had made his personaUty and 
attitude of mind famiUar to all who followed contemporary 
poUtics. Having, according to his usual fashion, made up 
his mind for himself, he took his Une boldly. In the early 
days of Liberal Unionism he used occasionally to attend 
Committee meetings and was at aU times much consulted 
by the leading and active members of that party. But 
having been elected Chairman of Committees, he held 
himself to a great extent aloof from the regular organisation 
and party work of Liberal Unionist Committees ; and he 
rarely appeared at the office in Spring Gardens, the head- 
quarters of combatant Liberal Unionism, or at Devonshire 
House, where from time to time Lord Hartington used to 


call the whole body of Liberal Unionist M.P.'s together for 

The opening weeks of the session were outwardly dull. 
Every one was waiting for the Prime Minister to define his 
Irish poUcy, and even Chamberiain held his hand till the 
situation became clearer. Home Rulers and Unionist 
Liberals, Birmingham Radicals and IndividuaHst Whigs, 
continued to meet and to canvass the prospects of their 
respective parties. 

From Joseph Chamberlain to Mrs. Courtney 

March 2. — I hope to present myself at your house about 4.30 
on Sunday. I shall be happy to meet Lady Trelawny and still 
more pleased to see you again, although you and your husband 
are heretics and do not belong to the true Radical fold. You 
ought to be guillotined both of you — ^but when the time comes I 
shall try and save you. 


March 7. — Chamberlain in the afternoon. Makes himself 
very agreeable to Lady Trelawny. After she left he remained 
talking in his very fresh way of the situation. He said every 
one, including himself, was waiting for Mr. Gladstone's Irish 
scheme. When it comes, as to the Tories opposing it success- 
fully, they must turn more than one hundred constituencies. 
" And public opinion on the Liberal side ? " said I. " The 
caucus is public opinion," he said ; " and if you ask me what 
public opinion will do, I tell you frankly that for once I don't 
know." He judged the new House to be a thoroughly good, 
businesslike one as well as immensely radical, and appealed to 
Leonard if the former was not so. L. replied, " Yes, they don't 
make long speeches, but I can't say it is a well-informed House. 
Most of the new Members seem quite unprepared with any other 
side of a question." Mr. C. answered, " They are as well in- 
formed as they need be. They have been sent to do certain 
things." Decidedly Mr. Chamberlain sees forces rather than 
principles in politics. He also said that he felt sure the English 
democracy would not be influenced in their judgment as to 
Home Rule by any care for the landlords or for the rights of the 
Protestant minority ; but they might have the feeling the 
North had in the war for the msiintenance of their Union. 


Though decUning to address his constituents before the 
production of the measure, Courtney explained his views on 
the Irish question in the April number of the Contemporary 
Review. He dismissed at the outset one of the popular 
arguments against Home Rule as a baseless fear, confessing 
that he anticipated no danger to Great Britain. Peril 
threatened Ireland alone. The rights of landowners might 
be safeguarded against direct confiscation ; but in industry 
and commerce, education, the professions, the judicature, 
pauperism and pubhc expenditure, bad legislation would 
be inevitable. A slow and by no means uninterrupted 
renovation was in progress ; but that process had now been 
checked. Home Rule became practical politics on the day 
that the Redistribution Act received the Royal Assent. 
The return of eighty-six NationaUsts was a formidable fact, 
and it was rendered the more formidable since the House 
f^ed to defend itself against them by a reform of Procedure. 
Both parties were to blame for the position. Mr. Gladstone 
had brooded for yeajrs over the possibiUties of Home Rule ; 
and the carelessness of the Conservative Government in the 
previous summer was inexpUcable, except on the theory 
that its leading spirits had arrived at the conclusion that 
the victory of Home Rule was assured. At the moment of 
writing. Home Rule was not yet ofiiciaUy adopted as a 
plank in the Liberal platform ; but no party could continue 
to have two opinions on such a subject, and, once adopted, 
it would survive a first disaster, remain the rallying-cry of 
the party and ultimately become the symbol of victory. 

If Home Rule was perhaps inevitable, should its 
opponents abstain from active opposition, and, after 
registering their protest, take their share in framing the new 
constitution ? There was something to be said for such a 
course. For instance, the simplest plan would be to con- 
cede a separate tariff — the privilege of every colony — and 
exclude the Irish members frcim Westminster. If Home 
Rule was to come, let it come in the form of colonial self- 
government. The right of maintaining Imperial garrisons 
would remain, and Ireland would be poor in everything 
save men. Should Protestant Ulster be cut off from 


Nationalist Ireland ? If so, the situation of Unionists in 
the rest of the island would be more desperate than ever. 
The sacrifice of minorities must be faced in any case, and 
the smallest number would be sacrificed if Ulster continued 
to be represented at Westminster. Some representation of 
minorities might be secured in the Irish Upper House, if 
not in the Lower. After an elaborate discussion of the 
machinery of Home Rule, the author ends, as he began, 
with a bitter lament. " Let the Irish party be ever so 
loyal ; let it be scrupulous to protect the claims of those 
whom it has most in aversion ; let no occasion of dispute 
arise over the terms of settlement with Great Britain ; yet 
I conceive the change must operate to put back Ireland in 
the path of advancement. Surveying its future, I feel 
nothing but anguish at a retrogression, the recovery from 
which, once accompUshed, must be long delayed, if, indeed, 
it should ever be reahsed." The article was sent to Lord 
Hartington, who warmly approved its arguments. 

From Lord Hartington 

March 20. — I would certainly recommend you to publish it. 
I do not see that its pessimist tone is any objection to publication. 
I entirely agree with the pessimism as to the results of Home 
Rule. Perhaps I do not go so far as you do in anticipating it 
as inevitable ; but the best hope of averting it is to put before 
people clearly what Home Rule really means, which I think you 
have done far more completely than anybody. 

The first sign of the coming cataclysm was the resigna- 
tion of Chamberlain and Trevelyan, the latter of whom 
remarked to Mrs. Courtney that five-sixths of the Liberal 
party were ready to follow any strong man who would give 
a lead against Home Rule. " The defection of friends," 
wrote Lord Acton from Cannes to Mrs. Drew, " strengthens 
the enemy's argument ; and that is already strong for any 
one who is not sound in the Liberal doctrine, a thing beyond 
Liberal poUcy. The concentration of everything in your 
father's hands is appalling, because one cannot see what 
the future is to be hke. His old weakness — the want of an 


heir — ^is very serious now. I did not think very well of the 
new Government, and I like it less now. I very seriously 
regret Trevelyan's resignation. Lefevre is a loss. So I 
think is Courtney." ^ The introduction of the Home Rule 
Bill on April 8 dispersed the cloud of speculation which had 
covered the pohtical arena since the Hawarden kite was 
launched. The first act of the great drama has been 
described by a hundred pens ; but we may once again 
survey the historic scene from the Ladies' Gallery through 
the spectacles of an ardent Liberal Unionist. 


April 8. — I go to the House of Commons to hear Gladstone 
introduce his Home Rule Bill. Members were there at seven in 
the morning, engaging places, and chairs were placed all up the 
gangway. When Gladstone entered the House he had a great 
ovation from the Irish members and below the gangway. He at 
once rose and began a speech which lasted three hours and 
twenty-five minutes — a marvellous feat for a man of seventy- 
seven. It was a very dramatic scene, and at times his eloquence 
nearly carried me away, and made me think whether after all 
this Home Rule scheme would not make all Irishmen happy 
and contented and good citizens ; but by this morning I have 
come back to a soberer judgment. One good thing is that the 
Bill is not whittled down, but stands out as a pretty complete 
measure of separation, which is far better than some half measure 
which neither frees England nor satisfies Irish aspirations. 

April 9. — Chamberlain made a most damaging speech against 
the Bill, which, however, he weakened by giving a rather crude 
alternative scheme for Federation which was flouted by the 
Parnellites and fell rather flat. Lord Hartington was simple, 
honest, free from any personal bitterness, and very effective 
against the Bill. Mr. Morley answered in a speech which was 
nervously delivered, and conspicuous rather for its gloomy fore- 
casts of what would happen if Home Rule were not granted than 
for any sanguine anticipation of its good results. 

April 13. — Last day of debate. An amusing speech from 
Sir W. Harcourt, full of wit and personalities, but with no attempt 
to defend a single provision of the Bill. Goschen follows, argu- 
ments weighty, manner awkward, and voice rather croaky. 

^ Letters to Mary Gladstone, 175-76. 


About midnight Gladstone rises and delivers the most eloquent 
speech I have heard from him. It made one feel that no one 
comes near him in oratory — voice magnificent and style very fine, 
but arguments often very dishonest to my mind. 

Three days later the Prime Minister introduced the Land 
Bill, and his Irish policy was now fully before the country 
for acceptance or rejection. After a short but sharp con- 
flict the National Liberal Federation rejected the appeal of 
its Birmingham founder, and by an overwhelming majority 
decided to obey the call of the veteran Prime Minister. 
The Liberal rank and file throughout the country followed 
its example. Courtney's reflections on the Bill and the 
situation were set forth in a letter written at the beginning 
of the Easter recess. 

To H. J. Roby 

April 20. — I look upon the future of Ireland, supposing 
Gladstone's Bills were to pass, as one of deepening misery. The 
economic distress which is the sting of the present situation would 
increase. John Morley dined quietly with my wife and myself 
on Sunday evening, and I did not find that his view of the future 
was appreciably different from my own. He holds more clearly 
that it is inevitable, and that the Irish must be got out of the 
House of Commons. I am not much more sanguine, but I would 
go on trying on the old lines, although it is very hard to entertain 
any confidence that the Conservatives under Randolph Churchill 
would not sell us. I think if we could know Hartington's inmost 
mind we might see that he was as little removed from me on one 
side as Morley is on the other. Then as to the Bills — will they 
pass ? The Home Rule BiU may be read a second time by a 
small majority, but will apparently perish in Committee. Although 
Chamberlain is chagrined at his apparent want of power, there is 
no real rapprochement between him and the Government. He 
makes the retention of the Irish members at Westminster in- 
dispensable, and the Government have not the least intention of 
conceding that. Morley would go out and not alone even if the 
Old Man himself was willing, which I do not beheve, to entertain 
the concession. And if the Bills fail, what is to happen ? Diffi- 
culty in Ireland of course ; perhaps violence in the House of 
Commons. But can one without a struggle abandon a third or 
a quarter of Ireland to the tender mercies of the other two-thirds 
or three-fourths ? 

301 HOME RULE 259 

After sectional meetings and an address to his followers 
by the Prime Minister at the Foreign Office, Chamberlain, 
Trevelyan and Bright resolved to vote against the Bill. 
The original Whig dissentients such as Hartington and 
Goschen would not have been strong enough to throw out 
the measure ; but the defection of the Radical group sealed 
its fate. Throughout these anxious weeks Courtney felt 
himself debarred by his official position from speaking ; but 
he rejoiced to discover that so influential a section of his 
party shared his dislike of Home Rule, and would assist 
him to defeat it. The second act of the Home Rule drama 
has been described as often as the first, but we may watch 
it once more from the Ladies' GaUery. 


June 8. — ^At last the long deferred day for the second reading 
has come. How will it go ? Guesses range from a majority of 
six for to a majority of thirty against, the prevalent opinion being 
a very small majority against. Goschen began in a speech full of 
good argument, but Leonard thought it ineffective. He was 
followed by Parnell in a most able speech, full of tact and modera- 
tion and assurances to the Irish Protestants of the welcome they 
would get in the Irish Parliament, and with a distinct statement 
that in the autumn a Conservative Cabinet Minister had offered 
him a statutory Parliament in Dublin with power of protecting 
Irish industries. When he sat down I went to dinner with L. 
in his room, and we thought the evening's debate was telling 
against the Unionists. Mr. John Morley, whom we met in the 
lobby, said it was strange that even now no one knew how the 
division would go. After dinner Sir Michael Hicks-Beach 
delivered a rather plain, heavy speech, enlivened by a duel with 
Parnell about the alleged offer of Parliament and Protection by 
a Conservative Minister. Parnell got up and repeated his state- 
ment emphatically. There were loud cries of " Name," and to 
a challenge from Randolph and Hicks-Beach Parnell answered, 
" When his colleague gives me permission I shall be glad to do so." 
At last came the Old Man's speech, as vigorous as ever and in 
beautiful voice, but it was a losing speech. He chaffed Cham- 
berlain about his alternative schemes. " The Right Honourable 
Gentleman might well say that a dissolution had no terror for 
him, for he has set his sail to catch a popular breeze from any 


quarter." A very eloquent peroration, magnificent in general 
principles and prophesying victory in the future if not in the 
present. The question was put amid great excitement. We 
thought from the faces of the Treasury Bench when the Whips 
came in that victory was with the Opposition ; but to my surprise 
the munbers were 311 for, 342 against, with 93 Liberals in the 
majority. Then followed a scene. After the cheers of the 
Opposition had subsided, the Irish rose en masse and waved and 
cheered like madmen ; and some one calling out " Three Cheers 
for the Grand Old Man," they were given. They were followed 
by groans for Chamberlain, and the Irish stood up and hissed at 
him hke wild cats, and then made the same fiendish noise at the 
Ulster members — a queer comment on Parnell's affectionate 
words to them. Mr. Gladstone got up and moved the adjourn- 
ment till Thursday, when he would state the course the Govern- 
ment would pursue. Walked through a crowd of excited people 
with Leonard and Henry Hobhouse, and was rather glad L. was 
not recognised, as there were some Irish among them who were 
talking of lynching Chamberlain if they caught him. As Henry 
said, he was the hero of the hour. How the Irish hate him ! 

Parliament was immediately dissolved, and the Liberal 
Unionists hurried away to their constituencies, uncertain of 
the reception that awaited them, though well aware that it 
would be a stem fight. Mrs. Courtney was indefatigable 
on the platform,^ Miss Tod presented the case for Irish 
Unionist Liberals at most of the meetings, and Mrs. Fawcett 
rendered valuable aid. Bodmin was unfriendly, but Lis- 
keard, with longer personal associations, stood by its mem- 
ber. When the delegates of the Liberal party declared 
against the sitting member by 58 to 8, and appointed a 
Committee to select another candidate, the Conservative 
Association rallied to his support. His Election Address 
was wholly devoted to Ireland, for which he prescribed 
county self-government instead of Home Rule. In reply 
to the taunt that he had entered public life under Gladstone's 
auspices, and then turned against him, he referred to his 
frequent denunciations of Home Rule at a time when it 
was rarely mentioned by other pohticians. That his meet- 
ings should often be disturbed was inevitable in that dark 

* In 1886 and 1892 Courtney's duties in the Chair prevented him from 
taking bis full share in the work of electioneering. 

xir HOME RULE 261 

hour when Liberals turned their swords against one another ; 
but the candidate said nothing to inflame the passions of 
his hearers. " I hope that whenever the name of Mr. 
Gladstone is uttered," he declared at Saltash, " it will be 
received with honour. I do not know what was in his 
innermost mind, but Home Rule was certainly not in his 
programme." On the eve of the poll the candidate described 
the novel situation in which he found himself. 

To Mrs. Fawcett 

July 4. — You may have noted the vicissitudes of our opposi- 
tion. There is a strange admixture of the ridiculous in the present 
situation ; but the working men are so thoroughly Gladstonian 
that the adverse poll will be fairly large. As a man said at the 
close of a village meeting last night, " Mr. Courtney is quite right. 
I agree with all he said. It would never do to have a separate 
Parliament in Ireland ; but Mr. Gladstone has been the friend of 
the working man and we must stand by him." 

After a strenuous campaign Courtney was elected by an 
increased majority of 1653. The ParneUites maintained 
their numbers. Seventy-eight Liberal Unionists were re- 
turned to help Lord Salisbury to hold the fort against Home 
Rule ; but Scotland, Wales and the north of England stood 
by the Liberal leader. 



When Lord Salisbury was returned to power at the General 
Election Courtney was reappointed Chairman of Commit- 
tees. The attractions of the post outweighed its dis 
advantages. He was indeed debarred from the unfettered 
expression of his opinions on every topic ; but on the other 
hand it gave him a dignified position, and nobody questioned 
his capacity for the duties which he was appointed to 
perform. Under existing circumstances the post offered an 
additional attraction. Mr, Birrell has named the House 
which met in 1886 " the uncomfortable Parliament," since 
the Gladstonians and Liberal Unionists sat cheek by jowl 
on the front Opposition bench, while thundering against 
each other on the dominant issue of the time. Courtney 
was not the man to shirk the consequences of his vote on 
the Home Rule Bill ; but he was not sorry to find himself 
sitting at the table and in the Speaker's chair, " above the 
battle." 1 Opinions differed as to the merits of Courtney's 
political convictions and conduct ; but there is an almost 
unprecedented consensus as to his services to pubhc business. 
The most experienced of observers pronounced him a bom 
Chairman of Ways and Means ; and Gladstone's high 
opinion was confirmed by further experience. 

From William Rathhone, M.P. {to Mrs. Courtney) 

May 19, 1887. — I dined with Mr. Gladstone last night and I 
am sure you would be gratified if you had heard the way in 

^ When the Speaker was in the Chair Courtney sat on the Front 
Opposition Bench ; but he was an official of the House, not a party chief. 



which he spoke, with the full assent of all present, of the way in 
which Mr. Courtney had done his work as Chairman of Committees. 
He Scdd he had seen a great many Chairmen but never yet one 
who came up to Mr. Courtney ; that the prompt way in which 
he seemed to strike at once what ought to be done, and the clear- 
ness with which he stated his points, was something wonderful. 
Harcourt and several other Members of Parliament were there, 
and all agreed with what he said ; and I am sure that you, as a 
good wife, will like to hear when so much abuse is going about 
that somebody is found who can be praised. 

Gladstone's verdict was shared by his followers. Lord 
Morley pronounces him " incomparable." " I have known 
several Chairmen of Committees," records Dr. Farquhar- 
son ; ^ " but nothing could exceed Lord Courtney for prompt 
decision and absolute integrity and impartiaUty." " In 
spite of his strong political opinions," writes Mr. Herbert 
Paul, " he was the embodiment of absolute impartiality. 
He would not ever consent to any of those arrangements 
about the order of speakers in debate which Whips some- 
times make with the Chair. The moment he took his seat 
at the table he seemed to forget that he belonged to any 
party, and he always recognised that the minority were 
entitled to the fullest consideration at his hands. The 
Chairman of Committees, though technically invested while 
he occupies the Chair with the same authority as the 
Speaker, does not enjoy the same commanding position 
and has in some measure to depend upon his own personal 
influence and weight. Lord Courtney's decisions always 
found acquiescence because they were at once perfectly 
lucid and obviously fair. The judicial turn of his mind 
may have sometimes diminished the interest of his speeches. 
It certainly increased the value of his rulings." " During 
these six trying years," echoes Mr. Burt, " Mr. Courtney 
acquitted himself admirably, and members often remarked 
that he would make an ideal Speaker. He had indeed all 
the quaUfications requisite for that great position. A 
slight personal incident in connection with Mr. Courtney's 
Chairmanship may be mentioned. In one of my infrequent 

^ The House of Commons from Within, p. 1 24. 


incursions into the debates a line of poetry came to my 
mind. I paused a moment, remarking that I did not know 
whether I durst venture to quote poetry ' with you, Mr. 
Courtney, in the Chair.' Casually meeting him a short time 
afterwards, he asked, I thought somewhat sternly, what I 
meant by sajdng that I was not sure that I dared quote 
poetry under his presidency ? Taken aback a Uttle I said 
that it certainly had never occurred to me that he would 
not appreciate poetry, but as we were discussing finance I 
thought he as Chairman might not consider poetry relevant, 
or regard Wordsworth as an authority on such a subject. 
His genial smile showed that my impertinence was forgiven 
and that all was well between us." The Irish wing of the 
Home Rule party regarded the Chairman with equal 
approval and confidence. " His action was sometimes 
very peremptory," records Justin M'Carthy, " but he was 
absolutely impartial and he won the respect of everybody." 
" Time has dulled my recollections of scenes and faces," 
wrote Mr. Thomas Sexton in 191 1, " but I have still two 
vivid memory-pictures of Westminster — Mr. Gladstone at the 
table and Mr. Courtney in the Chair." Mr. Swift MacNeill ^ 
recalls how an Irish Nationalist, stung by the speaker who 
preceded him, paused in his speech and had actually begun 
a rush across the floor of the House to attack the maker of 
the provocative speech. " Calmly rising from the Chair 
Courtney asked the honourable member, out of regard for 
the Chair, to restrain his feelings. The effect of the appeal 
was magical, and was met by an apology to the House." 

The chorus of eulogy is swelled by the voice of an ardent 
Liberal Unionist. " The Chairmanship of Committees," 
writes Mr. Arthur Elliot, " though less dignified than the 
Speakership, is not a more easy place to fill. The dignity 
and authority are less in men's eyes. Action has to be 
taken and important decisions given almost on the spm- 
of the moment without that deliberation and taking coimsel 
that are almost always possible to a Speaker. In Committee 
on a Bin, or on the Estimates, it is impossible that the same 
rigid formaUty should be observed as on a full dress debate 

1 Pall Mall Gazette, May i6, 191 8. 


or a second reading or a vote of confidence. Quickness of 
perception as to the effect and tendency of proposed amend- 
ments, firmness of decision, constant and closest attention, 
and the determination to give an equal hearing to all sides 
are the principal qualifications for a good Chairman ; and 
in all these respects Courtney excelled. Speaker Gully 
once said to me after several years' experience that he had 
never felt the very slightest inclination to turn towards his 
own political friends as such ; but that he had felt it neces- 
sary to guard himself against allowing his desire that the 
House should get on with business to induce him to restrict 
the liberty of the Opposition or of independent members. 
Generally speaking, as he said, the Government side of the 
House wants to get through business and the Opposition 
does not ; but the Chair is independent of the Ministry 
and has, whilst maintaining order, to protect the minority 
and individual members in the exercise of their rights of 
ample criticism and debate. Now Courtney was by nature 
the friend of the weak against the strong, the opponent of 
arbitrary power, the friend of individual independence ; so 
that whilst he occupied the Chair there was little danger 
that a tyrannical majority would be suffered to abuse its 
rights and trample on the freedom of criticism which is the 
privilege of aU members aUke. 

" Courtney in the Chair was no respecter of persons, as 
he showed again and again. When it is remembered that 
during his Chairmanship the recasting and enforcement of 
new Rules of Procedure came into effect, that the Preven- 
tion of Crime Bill, the Pamell Commission Bill, and other 
measures and proceedings of the Government were made 
the subject of prolonged and embittered controversy, the 
House of Commons has reason to be thankful for the patient, 
tolerant and liberal spirit that distinguished the conduct of 
the Chair. In those days doubtless there were many who 
would have been better pleased if he had been less patient 
with * Obstructionists,' and had made the Chair a more 
subservient instrument of the Ministry of the day. In 
granting or refusing the closure he would act wholly with 
regard to the judgement he had himself formed as to its 


expediency in the interests of the House itself and of freedom 
of debate. Whether it was called for by a powerful Minister 
of the Crown or a member of Uttle importance would affect 
his decision as little as the social standing of two Utigants 
would affect the judgement of a Judge of the High Court 
of Justice. If he erred at all in the strictness with which 
he would enforce rules and call men to order, it would be 
out of leniency to those who perhaps knew no better, while 
to men who had no such excuse he would be more rigid. 
Now that the heats of those days have passed away there 
are probably few who do not recognise that his Chairmanship 
during the strenuous years 1886-1892 helped much to main- 
tain at a high level the invaluable parhamentary tradition of 
Order and Free Debate." Against these testimonies must 
be set the complaint of some Conservative members that he 
allowed too much latitude to the Liberal Irish benches.^ 

No Speaker or Chairman of Committees is infalhble ; 
and if he were he would not escape criticism. Courtney's 
peremptoriness, which struck Justin McCarthy and some 
other observers, at times kindled sparks ; and a rebuke to 
the Leader of the House on one occasion seemed to not a 
few observers sharper than the situation demanded. 


May 1887. — I hear and read all sorts of flattering things of 
him and am beginning to think it is time to utter the warning 
cry, " Take heed when all men speak well of you ! " He dis- 
tinguished himself by refusing Mr. W. H. Smith the Closure. 
The House was sitting all night, and Mr. Smith proposed the 
Closure on a whole batch of amendments. L. singled out two 
which he thought deserved short discussion, thus making his 
own precedent. The Irish were so delighted that they dropped 
the others at once and allowed a division to be taken on the 
exempted ones after a very short discussion. The Conservatives 
were disappointed at first, but seeing the resiilt was a quick 
despatch of business were more cordial than ever next evening. 
A few days later he distinguished himself by calling Gladstone 
to order in the middle of a wrangle between the two front benches 
and making him sit down. 

^ See Sir R. Temple, Letters and Character Sketches from the House of 
Commons, p. 169. 


The refusal of the closure to the Leader of the House 
was an example of the right thing done in the wrong way. 
" I remember Courtney's abrupt shake of the head without 
words," writes Mr. Arthur ElUot, " and the flush that came 
over Old Morality's plain and honest face. It looked Hke 
a great snub to a most modest and unassuming man. I 
am sure it was not so intended ; but it was clumsily done, 
and Smith's friends were very angry. A few words in 
refusing would have removed aU offence. One or two little 
things of the sort told a little against his popularity as 
Chairman." On the death of the Leader of the House in 
1891 Courtney gave his own version of these passages of 
arms. " I often found it my duty to decUne the closure 
which he found it his duty to ask. Perhaps I was wrong. 
Perhaps he was wrong. I do not think, however dis- 
appointed he was at times at finding his motion rejected, 
he ever cherished any resentment. Never for one moment 
was the cordiality of our relations abated. He dreaded the 
abuse of the weapon he had to use. Perhaps he at times 
found consolation in the fact that the Chair was constrained 
to reject his motion, because he was urged all too frequently 
by his followers." 

The Chairman also came into sharp conflict with the 
Home Rulers when, on February 28, 1890, he suspended 
Labouchere for persisting in accusing Lord Salisbury of 
telling lies. The Opposition at once threatened to challenge 
his ruUng on the ground of undue restriction of debate, and 
two days later Mr. Morley called at Cheyne Walk to convey 
a friendly warning. Next day Gladstone gave notice of a 
motion that a Member of Parliament might contradict a 
Peer — a platitude for which the Chairman of Committees 
declared himself ready to vote. The Leader of the Opposi- 
tion then asked for an interview with the Chairman, but 
no result was reached. Gladstone seemed to be waiting 
for Courtney to make some proposal which would enable 
him to withdraw his motion, while Courtney, secure in his 
conviction that he had acted rightly, waited for the enemy 
to open fire. " You are very intimate with Courtney, 
are you not ? " remarked Gladstone to Mr. Morley after the 


conversation ; " don't you find him rather costive ? " 
Courtney was equally dissatisfied with the meeting, and 
remarked that he had never had a really satisfactory 
interview with the Grand Old Man. The Chairman's 
unrepentant attitude was not without its effect, for the 
attack was abandoned. 

Though Courtney enjoyed his dignified position, he often 
thirsted for his old Hberty ; and at the end of a year he 
explained to his constituents the self-denial involved in the 
discharge of its duties. " I am a non-combatant in our 
army ; and sometimes the suspicion occurs to me that it 
may perhaps be an inglorious retreat in which I have 
ensconced myself. I have never greatly coveted the distinc- 
tion, and I may now reveal the fact that I declined the post 
in 1882. Nor do I hold myself so wedded to it that I 
cannot contemplate the time when I should wish to resume 
more active poUtical hfe. A Chairman of Committees is 
not absolutely disqualified from engaging in general 
debates ; but any strong expression of opinion would 
diminish his authority, and on burning questions it would 
be indiscreet and almost impossible." In spite of strong 
temptation he set a guard on his Ups ; and his views on 
current politics were reserved for the electors of East 

The short session of 1886, mainly devoted to Supply, 
kept the Chairman of Committees busy in London through- 
out August and September ; but he was in good spirits, and 
some week-end visits provided welcome relief. 


August 21. — Go down to Sir John Lubbock's at High Elms 
for Sunday. Mr. Chamberlain and his son Austen join us at 
Victoria. Hot fine Sunday. L. spends it reading all day on the 
lawn. Sir John very fond of his young trees which he discusses 
with Mr. Chamberlain very eagerly. He shows us his ants also, 
some of which he has had twelve years watching. His keen 
interest about so many things is truly wonderful, and I have no 
doubt it is a great relief when politics go wrong to leave the House 
of Commons and go down to High Elms and devote himself to 


his ants and other creatures that always do right according to 
their appointed natures. Mr. Chamberlain is evidently much 
disgusted with politics at present and very bitter against 

Before starting for a well-earned holiday Courtney 
despatched one of his periodical bulletins to his old friend 
in Bombay. 

To John Scott 

September 22, 1886. — At length we are on the eve of a hoHday. 
We start for the Rhineland, resting at one or two less frequented 
cities such as Worms and Spires, as well as Cologne and Heidel- 
berg, and then crossing Switzerland descend upon North Italy — 
a day or two at the Lakes, Milan, Verona, Venice. When this 
reaches Bombay we ought, I think, to be still at Venice. We 
have been there together, have we not ? But to my wife, who 
has echpsed us both in having visited CaUfornia and the Second 
Cataract, Italy is a terra incognita. I will not go into detail 
after Venice, but Florence, Arezzo, Rome are points on which 
the mind rests. Fancy Arezzo to Rome — Caponsacchi and 
PompiHa flying through the night ! At the end of two months 
we shall be back in London — I hope not immersed in the fogs of 
nature and the Currency Commission. 

We have had a great experience since I wrote last, the 
experience of the General Election ; but though that act is over 
the end is not yet, nor do I foresee the conclusion. Like Lord 
Falkland I ingeminate peace, but with little better prospect of a 
quick or good result. As long as the Old Man Hves Home Rule 
will be the question of division, and the longer he lives the more 
is it Ukely to be confounded with the Liberal party. His personal 
influence has precipitated a struggle which, if successful, threatens 
Ireland with measureless misery, and which, unsettled, plunges 
the affairs of the whole Empire into confusion. There is great 
temptation to unavaiUng anger in contemplating the situation. 
The first battle got well over, the Conservatives having risen to 
the occasion and responded well to the Liberal Unionists ; but 
it is almost too much to expect them to maintain the same 
attitude next time, and we may then see the Liberal Unionists 
squeezed out and no Liberal candidates left but Home Rulers 
to fight Conservatives. In this way Home Rule may come to be 
the one subject of division between the only two parties of the 
State. The Conservatives will ask themselves whether they are 
.not strong enough to put in members who are thoroughly with 


them ; and the Liberal Unionists themselves, having to put the 
Union before everything else, will on successive issues find them- 
selves fighting side by side with the Conservatives and end by 
being nearly indistinguishable from them. Hartington is, of 
course, the most conspicuous example, and so it may come to 
pass that next time there is an election in Rossendale the Con- 
servatives will elect a man of their own unless he by that time 
becomes one of their own. My own position is not wholly dis- 
similar, except that I cannot conceive myself under any 
circumstances falling into the Conservative ranks. Many Liberal 
voters, as well as Liberal members, will, however, become Con- 
servative under the strain, and so the Conservatives may succeed 
in obtaining a pure majority. This is a sufficiently lugubrious 
anticipation, and what some suggest as an alternative, though it 
may offer an escape for the individual, is worse for the country. 
It is that Randolph ChurchiU will in a year or two get his party 
to concede Home Rule in some shape or other, after which there 
would be a resettlement of parties on some other question. You 
will see I am not hopeful. 

You will understand that the Chairmanship of Committees 
affords a comparatively quiet resting-place. Its duties are 
necessary and useful, and I think I discharge them as well as 
most ; but it may be doubtful whether it is not a little inglorious 
to retire upon them. It would be more heroic to die fighting, 
and perhaps when the fighting comes I shall have to put aside 
my office and descend into the arena. Hartington has come 
unblemished through the business on the one hand as John Morley 
on the other. The Old Man in his last pamphlet may have con- 
cealed from himself, but scarcely from others, the impression of 
having by partial revealment and partial concealment adroitly 
led on his followers as he desired. Of the said followers some of 
the more democratic, carried on by catchwords of self-government, 
are honest Home Rulers, beUeving in Home Rule. Others, while 
not conceahng from themselves the tremendous mischiefs that 
follow, think that they are now inevitable and silently support 
what they cannot prevent ; some catch up Home Rule as they 
would catch up anything Gladstone proposes and they think 
will win. 

The Italian tour was prolonged by his wife's illness in 
Rome, and the travellers only reached home on December lo. 
At this moment the political world was thrown into confusion 
by the capricious resignation of the Chancellor of the 



December 23. — I was packing up to go down to Bournemouth 
to spend Christmas Day with Father when Leonard came running 
upstairs calUng out " Kitty ! Kitty ! " in great excitement. 
" Well, what is it ? " " Resignation of Lord Randolph Churchill." 
It came like a thunderclap on most people, and it was said even 
the Cabinet had no idea of it. We found Father very eager about 
it and full of hopes that Lord Hartington would join Lord 
Salisbury's Government, as it is said he has been invited to do. 
L. shakes his wise head over the affair, thinking that another 
blow has been given to the Union. There was a great storm 
ending in snow the day after Christmas Day, which broke all the 
telegraph wires between us and the Continent, so it was unknown 
for some days where Lord Hartington was, and as all eyes appear 
to have turned to him, there was great suspense in political circles. 
Then came Mr. Chamberlain's speech in Birmingham, offering the 
olive branch to the Gladstonians and suggesting Liberal reunion. 
Before leaving town we had dined with the Morleys, and Mr. 
Morley mentioned incidentallythat hehad hada very friendly letter 
from Chamberlain, the first for nearly a year. He added, " Mind, 
whatever you hear about other people, I shall stand firm to my 
guns," which we took to mean that he would not accept any 
modification of his Home Rule policy. 

On returning to London after Christmas Courtney found 
a melancholy letter from Goschen, who was at the moment 
without a seat. 

From G. J. Goschen 

December 27, 1886. — How will the Unionists stand in the 
course of a week or two ? and what will be the effect of Cham- 
berlain's overtures, as I read them, to the Gladstonians ? 
Churchill's resignation, followed by Chamberlain's speech, seems 
to me to deal a heavy blow at the Union which it will be extremely 
difficult to parry. I have no idea what Hartington's course 
will be. 

Lord Hartington arrived from Rome on December 28, 
and two days later he summoned his friends to Devonshire 
House, where Courtney argued that if the Liberal Unionists 
joined the Government the remainder of the Liberal party 
would be irrevocably identified with Home Rule. 


To Arthur Elliot 

December 31, 1886. — I had a long talk with Hartington 
yesterday and saw him again this morning. He saw Lord SaUs- 
bury this afternoon, when the crisis will probably be settled as 
far as we are concerned. The Tory rank and file kick, and 
Akers-Douglas says he could not whip up the men for Hartington. 
This may be somewhat exaggerated, or it may be said in Ran- 
dolph's influence ; but it is enough to prevent a Coalition. I 
remain as in July against a Coahtion. If the Government can 
possibly scramble on, they must, the Liberal Unionists giving 
them outside assistance. If they cannot — a thing to be proved — 
Hartington may be asked by the Queen to form a Government 
and he might then essay a combination, but not till the extremity 
has arrived. For I look upon this as our last Hne of defence. 
Whilst we are aloof we do keep the Liberal party from organising 
as a Home Rule party ; but if the Liberal Unionists and the 
Conservatives join in a Government the Liberals throughout the 
country would shake themselves together. There would be only 
two parties, and the Liberals would some day return to power as 
unchecked Home Rulers. It is with this view that the Grand 
Old Man would (I have reason to know) like Hartington to form 
a Government so as to clear the Unes of division and simplify the 
situation, and it is this view that I am against, as I think most 
of our friends are. I do not conceal from myself that the neces- 
sity for a Coahtion may arise. Sahsbury's cry to Hartington has 
made the Government weaker than it need have been, and the 
mind staggers at the prospect of W. H. Smith leading the House ; 
but this dire necessity — ^the uttermost — ^is not yet.^ Randolph 
may go back : he is convinced, I am told, he has made a great 
mistake ; or without going back he may try not to be nasty. 
Hartington himself is perhaps (or was perhaps) less averse to 
Union than some others. The ways of our Joseph are dark. 

The atmosphere was charged with electricity, and 
Courtney possessed the advantage of being in touch with 
both sections of the Liberal party. 


December 31. — We dined with the Morleys, meeting Sir 
W. Harcourt, who was in great spirits and full of chaff. He 

1 Courtney afterwards learned to value the solid qualities and business 
capacity of the new Leader. 


asked L. what office he had accepted from Lord Salisbury, adding 
that he could tell by the " about-to-save-his-country " expression 
of his countenance that he had joined. 

The crisis was quickly solved by the appointment of 
Goschen as Chancellor of the Exchequer and of W. H. 
Smith as Leader of the House. But a feeling of insecur- 
ity remained, and the alliance between Conservatives and 
Unionists was too recent for either wing to feel complete 
confidence in the other. 

To John Scott 

January 3, 1887. — We got back on the nth December. I 
saw Randolph Churchill about Procedure and some other matters 
he proposed to take up in the coming session, and he appeared to 
have settled down to hard work in harness. I was as much 
surprised as the rest of the world when he resigned. The true 
reading of this transaction seems to be that he has overreached 
himself ; he offered resignation as the alternative to getting his 
terms, making sure that he would get them ; and to his astonish- 
ment he did not. It is added he is much disgusted at being out. 
As to the motive of his disagreement with his colleagues he is 
trying to put the best face on it, and I fancy that on most of the 
questions of difference he has taken the right side, not so much 
because it was right as because he thought it would win — his 
game being always to win and to win quickly. If he has tried 
to keep in by following good counsels and by impressing good 
counsels on his colleagues, he got in by appealing to every vulgar 
prejudice and densest ignorance against good counsels. The 
effect of his going out may, however, be very serious. 

January 5. — Goschen has joined the Government. This is 
the first effect of Randolph's resignation, and though he has 
joined as a Liberal Unionist it is almost inevitable that he should 
slip into being a Conservative. It is said he has joined under 
Hartington's pressure or command ; perhaps it would be more 
correct to say with Hartington's concurrence. One dominant 
consideration was that it was almost impossible to find him a 
seat anywhere. Another effect that may, I think, be traced to 
Randolph's resignation is a very dubious attempt on Chamber- 
lain's part to effect a compromise with the Gladstonians. This 
ought to fail because I do not believe Gladstone will budge an 
inch from his position, and reconciliation would therefore mean 
complete surrender on Joe's part, which would be so unlike him 
as to be almost incredible. But he may knock under rather than 



be out in the cold indefinitely. I don't like this coquetting as 
I object to Hartington's joining the Conservatives, because I 
deprecate above all things our public men settling into two and 
only two parties, so that Liberalism shall mean Home Rule and 
Anti-Home Rule shall mean Conservatism. If that came to pass. 
Home Rule would soon be passed. I am not sanguine in any case 
about being able to prevent it permanently. Gladstone has made 
it terribly hard, and the strain upon public virtue is excessive. 
Not every man will go on fighting a battle he knows to be lost, 
and accepting defeat with a consciousness it means annihilation. 
You will be glad to know that Dicey is doing good work in the 
controversy. I see the contagion of Home Rule is extending to 
India as we knew it must. How you on the spot must groan 
over the premature encouragement to foolhardiness. I don't 
fancy this trouble will become serious in our time ; but the 
working-man voter with his large generosity when he has no 
interest would think no more of giving up India than of giving 
up Ireland, not caring to inquire seriously what would be the fate 
of either when abandoned. You will hke to know that amid all 
political vicissitudes John Morley and I remain as close friends 
as ever. 

On the day that Churchill's resignation was announced 
Chamberlain had delivered a speech at Birmingham which 
led Harcourt to propose a friendly discussion between 
Liberal Unionists and Home Rulers. The five chiefs met 
at Harcourt's house, and for a time the discussions pro- 
ceeded harmoniously ; but the negotiations were broken 
off by Chamberlain, who was stung by outside attacks 
into an outburst against " disloyal " Irishmen. The only 
concrete result of the meetings was to shake the faith of Sir 
George Trevelyan. 


Sir George is apparently seized with such a passion for 
Liberal Reunion that he talks about the differences that separate 
the Gladstonians and Liberal Unionists being purely imaginary. 
One would hke to know how the situation has changed since he 
left Mr. Gladstone last year. The secrets of the Round Table 
must be well kept if there is so much change as all that in the 
views held by the guests. We are rather nervous about what he 
will say at Liskeard at our demonstration. Will he be a second 
Balaam ? 


Sir George's speech at Liskeard gave evidence of the 
coming change ; but the balance was redressed by a full- 
blooded Unionist oration from W. S. Caine, who httle 
suspected that he too was destined to re-enter the 
Gladstonian fold. The real hero of the occasion was the 
sitting Member, who dealt with the division within the 
Liberal party. " I do not expect reunion," he declared, 
" but I wiU do nothing to stop it. It is for the Home 
Rulers to return to us, for it is they who have gone astray." 
" It is a pleasure in this flabby generation," commented the 
Spectator, " to read such words. We have sometimes 
thought and occasionally said that Mr. Courtney was too 
confident in his own judgment ; but there are times when 
that capacity for being certain is the necessary condition 
of resolution to do one's duty. It is manliness, not without 
its touch of stubborn defiance, that Unionists now require." 

At the opening of the session of 1887 the Government 
announced the renewal of coercion ; but before introducing 
the Crimes Bill, they proposed and carried a new Standing 
Order providing that debate might be closured with the 
approval of the Chair and the support of two hundred 
Members. As he had been in consultation with Ministers 
on the subject, Courtney stepped down from his pedestal 
and gave his blessing to the change. The new weapon 
was employed to carry the First Reading of the Bill. A day 
or two later the Speaker fell ill, and the Chairman took his 
place during the long and stormy debates on the Second 
Reading. The House sat late, and the Deputy-Speaker 
often arrived home at three, four or five in the morning. 
It was a period of great physical and mental strain ; but 
Members were glad to feel a strong hand on the reins. He 
was on friendly terms alike with Conservatives, Liberal 
Unionists and Home Rulers, and men who fought each 
other at St. Stephen's fraternised in the mellowing atmo- 
sphere of Cheyne Walk. 


We have a very interesting party consisting of Mr. Arthur 
Balfour, Mr. John Morley, Mr. Russell of the Liverpool Post 


(afterwards Sir Edward Russell), Mrs. Fawcett, and Beatrice. 
They all stay till nearly twelve, and the talk is deUghtful. Mr. 
Balfour and Mr. Morley get on famously and agree about much, 
especially in their comic descriptions of their respective front 
benches. Mr. Morley is full of stories about the Grand Old Man, 
and describes how both he and Harcourt think the other speaks 
too often. Mr. Balfour seems to have quite a liking for some of 
the Irish, especially Dillon. 

Before adjourning for the Whitsun recess the Chairman 
of Committees, accompanied by W. H. Smith, Gladstone 
and Hartington, followed the Speaker in procession from 
the Palace of Westminster to St. Margaret's, where Bishop 
Boyd Carpenter preached the Jubilee sermon. He again 
walked in procession with the Speaker to the Jubilee service 
in the Abbey on June 21, and sat between him and Gladstone 
close to the Sovereign ; and on the following day the distin- 
guished guests of the nation assembled at the most brilliant 
reception the Foreign Office had ever witnessed. A week 
later the Queen gave a garden party at Buckingham Palace. 


The Queen walked round through a long deep lane of her 
guests, leaning on a stick and bowing continually in answer to 
their salutations, — a sort of half bow half curtsey she makes in 
a very old-fashioned-looking style. When she came opposite us 
Lord Mount Edgecumbe pointed out Leonard as the Chairman 
of Committees, when, to our astonishment, she hobbled up and, 
very deliberately making a curtsey opposite him, said, " You 
work very hard, Mr. Courtney," which I thought very nice of 

The review of the fleet closed the official ceremonies ; 
but people were in the mood for entertaining, and the 
Chairman spent week-ends with the Farrers at Abinger, 
the Lubbocks at High Elms and the Grant Duffs at Twicken- 
ham. While, however, the British Empire was junketing, 
Ireland was suffering and sulking, and Parliament was 
busily occupied with the Crimes Bill. 



July. — Leonard has stormy times and long hours in the Chair ; 
but he keeps wonderfully well. He has become an extraordinary 
favourite with the Irish members, who treat his ruUngs with the 
utmost respect and show their liking for him in many ways, — one 
a very odd incident when they claimed on the Estimates that he 
should have a house provided at Westminster instead of " trudg- 
ing home in the early morning to Chelsea." There are several 
shindies. Once Mr. Healy ife suspended for offering to wring 
De Lisle's neck just behind the Chair ; but still he bears Leohard 
no malice. Another time he again behaves outrageously in 
threatening to throw slops in Mr. Balfour's face if he ever had 
to empty them in prison. Leonard also intervenes several times 
in debate to propose some way of getting through business in 
words of a moderating character. 

The session dragged on throughout August and the first 
half of September, and ended with an explosion on the 
fracas at Michelstown, which supplied the text for innumer- 
able Home Rule orations and perorations during the autumn 
recess. October was dedicated to his constituents, who 
were informed that their member fully approved both the 
Crimes Act and the closure by which it was carried. The 
Act, he explained, was merely a new machinery for punishing 
what was already punishable ; and since local juries were 
too timid to convict, there was no alternative to the Govern- 
ment plan. The outlook as a whole, however, was by no 
means promising. The results of judicial rents were dis- 
appointing, and he had no great belief in the newer policy 
of land purchase. The most urgent need of the time was 
the reform of county government, with the provision for 
the representation of minorities. Early in November, his 
duty done, Courtney left London for a tour in Sicily. Before 
starting, however, he sent an urgent warning and exhortation 
to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, then deeply engaged 
on the Bill which was to be the principal measure of 1888. 

To G. J. Goschen 

November 4. — I am off for Sicily in the morning, but I am 
moved to send you before I go a word about Local Government, 


especially in England. How do you mean to secure representa- 
tion — a voice — the power of argument and remonstrance to 
minorities ? This is more important than ever in Local Govern- 
ment. The right administration of the Poor Law never can be 
popular. Some guarantees that your local bodies shall contain- 
representatives of all sections who shall not always be in peril of 
dismissal are essential. Single-membered seats will not secure 
this. Pray realise from the history of Gladstone's Home Rule 
campaign how inferior are the defences of single seats in securing 
the representation of independent judgment. Under a system 
of representation of minorities there would have been Home 
Rulers returned in Great Britain before Gladstone raised the cry ; 
but he would not have been able to carry with him that great 
array of waverers, who, knowing all was lost unless they followed 
him, consented to adopt his policy though detesting it. Now 
I do pray that we do not in a happy-go-lucky blind way repeat 
this terrible error in new schemes of Local Government. All 
the best Conservative— in the best sense — elements of EngUsh 
society are here in peril ; all the slowly won principles of Poor 
Law administration in jeopardy. You cannot rely on ex officio 
seats nor on plural voting. They are both in violent antagonism 
to the dominant ideas of the present ParHamentary electorate 
with whom the decision must be. A democratic system without 
the infusion of privilege is inevitable. But the representation of 
all minorities is a thoroughly democratic idea. Bradlaugh is as 
strongly in favour of it as Lord Salisbury can be. Of Mill and 
Fawcett I need not speak, but I can say that democratic audiences 
in all the big towns have accepted it. Try either the cumulative 
vote of the School Board or the Single Transferable vote, or any 
other plan you like. 

The session of 1888 opened quietly, new rules of pro- 
cedure, in the framing of which Courtney had been consulted, 
being carried without difficulty. Ritchie's Local Govern- 
ment Bill met with general approval and astonished Liberals 
by its far-reaching provisions. Nobody except its author 
was more interested in its character or fate than the Chair- 
man of Committees,^ who welcomed another opportunity 
of urging proportional representation and who joined Sir 

1 " One of his monumental achievements in the Chair," wrote Mr. Lucy 
(now Sir Henry), " was the smooth, business-hke passage of the Local 
Government Bill. Except the Minister in charge he was probably the 
only man who thoroughly grasped the hourly changing aspect of this 
stupendous measure." — Cornish Magazine, Sept. 1898. 


John Lubbock in arranging a test election in the House. 
He had advocated the reform of county administration for 
many years, and he deHvered his first important speech in 
the Salisbury Parliament on the Second Reading. 


April 16. — Go to House to hear L.'s speech. Most earnest 
and eloquent, one of the best he has ever made. A plea for 
Proportional Representation in county elections. He made an 
evident impression, uphill work as the subject is, for men's eyes 
seem blind. Mr. Chamberlain followed with a speech full of 
shallow sneers, — a great dramatic contrast which was also felt. 
Lord Hartington and W. H. Smith both speak to Leonard about 
his speech and express a wish that his system might be tried ; 
but I fear they will hardly have the courage to do it without 
more pressure than the present state of public opinion will give. 

Accepting the Bill as an excellent beginning, he pro- 
phesied that the County Councils would gradually assume 
further responsibilities, such as the control of education 
and the Poor Law. Their financial powers also seemed 
to him too circumscribed. But the great blot on the 
measure was the absence of proportional representation, 
which was essential in local no less than in national elections, 
and only less needed in England than in Ireland. The 
speech impressed every one who heard it and drew cheers 
from the Strangers' GaUery. " I have never heard a long 
debate," wrote Sir Richard Temple, " in which the speakers 
were so uniformly competent. Mr. Courtney criticised the 
electoral portions of the scheme, and urged with impas- 
sioned earnestness the principle of which he had been an 
enlightened advocate. As an oratorical effort this was the 
best of the many good speeches made in the debate." ^ 
Mrs. Courtney sent a copy of the speech to the ^American 
Ambassador, James Russell Lowell, who was not less 
interested in questions of political machinery than in 
Uterature, and who replied that he always read Mr. Court- 
ney's speeches because they were addressed to the reason 
of his hearers. 

1 Life in Parliament, i886-i8gy, pp. 192-3. 


The Whitsun holiday of 1888 was spent in Holland and 
Belgium. At a stall at a fair in Dort the travellers picked 
up a Dutch version of Aurora Leigh in white vellum, and on 
their return presented it to Browning, who was unaware 
of the existence of the translation. 

From Robert Browning {to Mrs. Courtney) 

June 15. — Your most kind and greatly valued present was 
received with so much surprise as well as gratitude that I thought 
of examining it a Httle more leisurely than I have been able to 
do before reporting about it to the generous donors. That may 
come after, however, and I will say at once how thankful I am 
for your kindness. It happens curiously that the day which 
brought me your present brought also a French (MSS.) trans- 
lation of the same poem. 

Though the session of 1888 remains memorable for 
the creation of County Councils, far greater interest was 
aroused at the moment by the fierce battle between Pamell 
and the Times. The publication on April 18, 1887, of a letter 
virtually approving the Phoenix Park murders signed by the 
Irish leader had provoked an instant repudiation of the 
" villainous and barefaced forgery." The great journal 
refused to withdraw and in the following year produced 
some more letters of a similar character, which were in turn 
indignantly repudiated. Pamell desired that the question 
should be referred to a Committee of the House from which 
Irish members should be excluded. The Government, 
however, decided to appoint a special Commission of three 
Judges to investigate not only the authenticity of the letters 
but the charges and allegations against Pamell and his 
colleagues made by the Times in its articles entitled " Par- 
neUism and Crime." In other words, a Unionist tribunal 
was nominated by the Government to pronounce judgement 
on a great pohtical movement, and the Attorney-General 
appeared for the Times. The passing of the Act — with the 
aid of the closure — creating the Court led to repeated 
" scenes," which required all the tact of the Speaker and 
the Chairman of Committees to keep within bounds. The 


value of Courtney's services wera generally recognised, and 
the faithful Gladstonian, Stuart Rendel, described his im- 
partiality as the one bright feature of the session. 


One of the most furious debates is over the Royal Commission 
to inquire into the charges in the Times. A special scene between 
Parnell and Chamberiain. In the midst of it all we have a small 
dinner, asked before the row, which gives us some anxiety. 
Mr. Chamberiain, Mr. Balfour, Mr. Buckle, a Gladstonian M.P. — 
Mr. Munro-Ferguson, and the Hobhouses. We get on very well. 
Mr. Chamberiain rather attacking Leonard as usual. " Courtney, 
I want to ask you a question. If I fired a revolver across the 
floor of the House, what would you do ? " " My dear Cham- 
berlain, it would not be across the floor of the House that you 
would fire," says Mr. Balfour. " No, the ball would glance," 
was the reply. 

On his usual autumn visit to his constituents Courtney 
naturally devoted his main attention to Ireland. The 
Crimes Act of 1887, he declared, had worked well, and the 
country was more orderly ; but policeman's work was never 
enough, and County Councils should be created as soon as 
possible on the new English model. The Parnell letters 
were discussed with a cool detachment rare among Unionist 
orators. The Irish leader should have gone to the Courts 
directly the letters appeared, and the creation of a Special 
Commission was equally a mistake. The Government should 
have left the matter to the ordinary processes of law, and not 
have taken sides. But Parliament had lost its head. " The 
scenes in the debates on the Bill were most painful and most 
prejudicial to the authority of the House." The importance 
of the letters had been enormously exaggerated. If the most 
celebrated letter was genuine he should not think much the 
worse of the writer. " A man might write such a letter 
without in the least being accused of compUcity in or appro- 
bation of murder." If Parnell was proved to be its author, 
his character for veracity would be gone and he would be 
ruined ; but the question, however it was answered, had no 
bearing on the merits or demerits of Home Rule, 


The State Trial opened on October 22, A long array of 
witnesses told of riots, outrages and murder ; but nothing 
was revealed that was not already known to students of the 
Irish problem. When the letters were reached in February 
the exposure of Pigott and the flight and suicide of the 
forger blunted the effect of less dramatic revelations. The 
Report of the Special Commission was ready on February 13, 
1889. " There was a scene of wondrous excitement," 
relates Justin M'Carthy, " when the first bundles of the 
Report reached the House. Members were too impatient 
to wait for their distribution. The bundles were simply 
flung upon the floor in the inner lobby and were scrambled 
for by the Members." ^ The Judges found that the Irish 
Members were not collectively engaged in a conspiracy for 
independence, but that certain Nationahsts inside and out- 
side Parhament desired separation. None of the defendants 
had paid people to commit crime, but some of them had 
excited to intimidation. The letters attributed to Pamell 
were forgeries. The Report was a virtual acquittal, and 
when the Irish leader walked to his seat the House broke 
into loud acclamations. While zealous but unwary Unionists, 
headed by the Prime Minister, had greedily swallowed the 
charges against Parnell and had pressed them into the 
campaign against Home Rule, the Chairman of Committees 
had nothing to recant. But the discomfiture of the Times 
struck a damaging blow at the Unionist cause and filled Home 
Rulers with new hope. Courtney had never felt very con- 
fident of the ultimate victory of the Union, but the un- 
certainty made no difference in his action. 

To Sir W. Trelawny 
{Chairman of the L.U. Association in S.E. Cornwall) 

No one wiU dissent from your opinion that the present position 
of Liberal Unionists is one we would not wish if we could help it. 
The only question is whether it is not an unpleasant necessity. 
At the same time it is not without some compensations. The 
Conservatives have been drawn and are daily being drawn to 
promote measures they do not naturally like, and we are able to 
^ History of Our Own Times, i88o-i8gy, p. 270. 


strengthen all that is progressive amongst them and to neutralise 
all that is reactionary. So far there is a distinct public gain, and 
without any compromise of our own views and opinions. The 
time may come when we shall be unable to turn the balance and 
we may have to reconsider our situation, but that time is not yet. 
On the other hand I can see no sign of Mr. Gladstone retreating 
from the position which made us withdraw from him in 1886. 

It was hardly to be expected that the Government's 
motion to thank the Commissioners for their labours would 
satisfy the House as a whole ; and the Leader of the Opposi- 
tion moved an amendment asking the House to protest 
against the wrong, suffering and loss endured by the victims 
of calumny. A more explicit condemnation of the Times 
for publishing forged letters was placed on the paper by 
Louis Jennings, the faithful henchman of Randolph Churchill. 
For this amendment Courtney intended to speak and to vote. 
Indeed he had almost made up his mind to move such an 
amendment himself, hoping the Government might accept 
it from a friend, but he was dissuaded by Lord Derby. 
Before Jennings could speak Churchill took the wind out of 
his sails with a vigorous condemnation of the Government; 
and Jennings, though deUvering his own speech of censure, 
refused to move his amendment in disgust at his leader's 
action. It was thereupon moved by Caine, and supported 
by Courtney alone of Liberal Unionists. Two Conservatives 
joined him in the Lobby, while several abstained, and the 
majority fell to forty. Lord Curzon later told Mrs. Courtney 
that half the Conservatives were in favour of some such 
amendment, and expressed his opinion that if the Chairman 
of Committees had moved it they would have voted with 
him. " My vote expressed the views of many who did not 
vote with me," declared Courtney to his constituents, " and 
I was strengthening the Unionist cause by helping to free it 
from the suspicion of partiality and injustice." But while 
repeating his condemnation of the reckless creduUty of the 
Times, he added, " I know Mr. Walter weU, and there is no 
man of more unimpeachable honour." 

During the Easter recess the Chairman reviewed the open- 
ing weeks of the session with less reserve in a private letter. 


To John Scott 

April 3, 1890. — We have had a short time up to Easter and 
have really done as much in it as could fairly be expected. Supply 
is further on than usual and several bills have been read a second 
time. We have indeed abundance of work before us. Balfour's 
Land Bill will occupy a long time and the Tithe Bill is not a 
trifle ; but the prospects are not bad. Even the India Council Bill 
may be put through in spite of having to wait upon matters which 
may be of less importance but in which the British public is more 
interested ; that will depend very much upon Bradlaugh. If he 
wants to have it passed he can probably hmit the talk over it so 
as to get this done, and I daresay he would be satisfied with it as 
an instalment. But his health and energy are not what they 
were. This may also be said of the present Parliament or at least 
of the opposition within it. The persistent fighting mood has 
disappeared. It is not dead but it is dormant. Business is 
pretty brisk up and down the country. Ireland itself is a little 
quieter. Except as regards bye-elections the storm of battle is 
adjourned. Many are ready to interpret this lull as the calm 
before an immediate dissolution, and I don't look upon a dis- 
solution in July as an impossible contingency. No one can 
venture to predict what the result of a General Election would 
be. Bradlaugh was doubtless right when he told you the Liberal 
Unionists would be squeezed out. The sitting members who 
stand again may have good chances, but it is very hard for 
new-comers. To return to the temper of the House it is a curious 
illustration of it how little we have missed .Hartington. His 
continued absence would be an enormous peril and I was anxious 
as to what might happen in these few weeks before Easter ; but 
no occasion for his intervention has arisen. The only difficulty 
was during a very brief hour over the Commission Report, and 
that passed off as quickly as it came. 

While Courtney's official position debarred him from an 
active share in party politics, it left him free to expound 
his views on social and economic problems in other quarters. 
His distrust of State socialism and of short cuts to prosperity 
increased with their vogue, for he was anchored to the 
principles of self-help in which he had been reared. At the 
annual meeting of the Charity Organisation Society he gave 
utterance to the " few sturdy words " for which Mr. Loch 
had asked. The people, he declared, should be taught that 


the remedy for most of the evils from which they suffered 
was in their own hands ; and he never lost an opportunity 
of preaching this unpopular gospel to the adherents of a 
softer faith. 

To a Correspondent 

February 10, 1887. — I am obliged to you for sending me a 
copy of " The Acres and the Hands." I am always disposed to 
demur to anything that may betray hasty readers to think that 
a permanent radical change in the condition of the people can be 
made by a change of laws without a change of character. You 
might aboUsh entail and settlement, leases and underleases, and 
admit of nought but estates in fee simple ; and you would effect 
no real abiding elevation of our countrymen unless you brought 
about at the same time a conviction of persongd and social 
obligations providing a self-control without which all legislative 
boons are transitory benefits. I would have this insisted upon 
in all popular teaching. 

In his academic utterances no less than in his political 
speeches and private correspondence Courtney proclaimed 
the gospel of hard work and self-help. In an address to 
the Political Economy Circle of the National Liberal Club 
in April, 1888, on " The Occupation of Land," afterwards 
pubhshed in the Nineteenth Century, he argues that nothing 
but good use justifies possession of land, and that imperfect 
use justifies dispossession. If good use is secured it matters 
little whether the holder be an individual or the State. A 
good occupier deserves every protection and encouragement. 
The rigid lease gives both too much and too little. The 
three F's of the Irish tenant — fair rent, fixity of tenure, and 
free sale — should be extended to England. But even they 
do not guarantee good use of the land ; and there should 
therefore be an impartial authority to supervise and where 
necessary alter the relations of occupier and owner. " My 
object is the liberation and encouragement of those who are 
working for themselves. I am not for helping the weak. 
I wish to remove impediments, to help those who are help- 
ing themselves." 

An address on " The Swarming of Men," dehvered at 
Leicester in January, 1888, repeated at Toynbee Hall, and 


published in the Nineteenth Century, covered wider ground. 
" We may see myriads of men rush into being ; thronging, 
pressing, spreading wherever a point seems vacant of Ufe, 
and then again passing out of being whilst new m3niads 
swarm upon their traces before they have well disappeared. 
How this cloud of being comes and goes ; why this spot is 
darkened with the thickening mass, whilst that other is 
covered with a thinner veil ; in what way the moving 
particles of the stream of humanity contribute to shape its 
course and volume — these are the speculations I would 
fain pursue. The great migrations which have swept over 
Asia and Europe are now at an end ; but their modem 
equivalent, the industrial migrations, is only another 
variety of the struggle for existence which forms the main 
theme of human history." Beginning with his own country 
the lecturer recalls how the nine milUons in England and 
Wales in 1801, the date of the first census, had grown to 
twenty-eight milUons ; how the greatest increase occurred 
in the first half of the century ; how the proportion of town 
to country dwellers had advanced ; how provincial cities 
had waxed even more rapidly than London ; how trades 
enrich or desert a given centre ; how immigration, emigra- 
tion and facilities of locomotion affect the balance ; how 
Scotland exhibits much the same result ; how Ireland out- 
grew her resources in the first half of the century and saw 
her population drift overseas in the second. Extending 
his glance beyond the British Isles, he reveals Scandinavia 
and Germany throwing off swarms of emigrants to North 
America, and Italians thronging to South America. Within 
the United States we trace the same migrations from 
East to centre and from centre to West in search of wider 

On concluding his survey the lecturer summed up its 
lessons in a strain of philosophic eloquence. " The spectacle 
we have been pursuing is but a study with reference to man 
of that constant struggle for existence to which the great 
philosopher of our time has traced diversities of the forms 
of life ; but the quantity of any species of brute life is 
maintained at any moment up to its fullest capacity of 


existence. Can it be pretended that the cup of human 
existence must always thus be brimming over ? We count 
the individual man at least master of himself. His sense of 
responsibility can be awakened, his conscience vivified and 
strengthened ; and the over-conscience of the multitude 
is born of the consciences of separate men. If it becomes 
part of the universal conscience to look before and after ; 
if the general training of men be directed towards making 
them more alert to seize upon new occasions of industry, 
and to recognise the changes of condition which require the 
abandonment of decaying occupations ; if, instead of vain 
repinings and impotent struggles against change, there is 
a frank acceptance of the inevitable which is also beneficial ; 
above aU, if the relation of numbers to the means of existence 
is confessed, and men are taught to recognise practically 
and habitually their responsibiUty for their children's start 
in life, we may face the future without anxiety if not with- 
out concern. But I cannot honestly say that I believe these 
conditions of successful conduct in the future are at present 
reahsed. I must confess, not for the first time, to a suspicion 
that they are less generally apprehended than they were in 
a preceding generation. Our immediate predecessors seem 
to me to have been more loyal in admitting the rigour of 
the conditions of life, more courageous in rejecting indolent 
sentimentalities ; they knew the severities of the rule of 
the universe, and the penalties of neglecting to conform to 
it. Many causes have conspired to corrupt this sound 
morality ; but the circumstances of to-day seem to require 
that a strenuous effort should be made to restore and 
spread its authority before the remorseless pressure of fact 
comes to re-establish its sanction." 

A third address, delivered at University College on 
February 11, 1891,^ was devoted to Socialism, which he 
depicted as economically impracticable and morally un- 
desirable. As a boy he had heard much talk of Robert 
Owen, and as a young man he had bought his clothes at 
one of the co-operative shops started by the " Christian 
Socialists," who were not Socialists at all. If small com- 

^ Reported verbatim in the Times. 


munities had failed through bad management and human 
friction, what brain could control the operations of a vast 
machine involving the life of a whole nation ? A socialist 
community, could it be formed, would be a sluggish river 
if not a stagnant pool ; and the organisation of industry is 
too complex a task for a bureaucracy. The difficulties that 
beset the theory of collectivism are insuperable. But this 
negative result does not throw us back on an unimprovable 
anarchy. " Consider what might be accomplished through 
a growth in temperance, prudence and the exercise of 
S3mipathy, Poverty, as we understand it, would disappear. 
Strong men and free men, with personal independence 
unabated yet inbred with mutual respect, would associate, 
working out an elevation of the common Hfe through 
individual advancement. The individualist has also his 
ideal. Life is richer than ever in variety and beauty ; for 
while the toil needed to support existence is abated and 
the condition of all has been raised, character and independ- 
ence, vivacity, self-rehance and courage — all the elements 
that constitute the personal genius of each citizen — have 
been strengthened." 

The strongest Parliaments exhaust their strength, and 
in the session of 1890 Unionist stock began to fall rapidly. 
The withdrawal of the grant to local authorities for the 
purchase and extinction of licenses was a damaging blow 
to the Government, and revealed a weakness in the Higher 


July 2. — We have had a nasty fortnight for the Unionist 
cause. For some time business in the House has been going 
slowly and badly, the Government not managing well. Poor old 
W. H. Smith ill and not equal to the strain. The Opposition 
obstructing abominably, and Leonard feeling sometimes bound 
to refuse the closure, to the great disgust of the Tory rank and 
file. To complete the trouble Goschen and Ritchie insist on 
passing the Compensation Clauses of the Local Taxation Bill, 
ardently opposed by the fanatical teetotallers, disliked by 
financial people like Leonard, and not cared for by any one. 
Feeling higher at every stage, and Government majority lower 


at every division. At last Government announce partial with- 
drawal and finally total withdrawal. Caine, who has led the 
Temperance opposition, throws up his seat in disgust and goes 
off to contest it as an Independent Liberal. Great consternation, 
and House so demoralised one night (July 24) that anything might 
have happened. Ministry all collapsed apparently. Considering 
they have a good majority and are not failing in their main policy 
of Irish Government, it seems absurd for the Unionist party to 
succumb hke that to what is after all only comparatively a trifling 
blunder ; but the truth is there is no leader. 

The return of a Gladstonian Liberal at the bye-election, 
defeating both the Conservative candidate and Caine him- 
self, seemed a portent, and Liberal Unionists began to wear 
long faces. 

To his Wife 

July 9, 1890. — In going through the Lobby to-night I was 
intercepted. " Was it true that Randolph was coming back ? 
People were saying that he was to be Home Secretary. Some 
said that he was to lead the House, but most said Beach." To 
which I could only say I had not heard a word of it. 

The Government had lost its nerve and felt that it 
required a long rest. 

To Ms Wife 

July II, 1890. — Everything contested is thrown over, and 
we meet again in November. It is very disgusting looking back 
upon Easter and thinking that nothing but mischief has been 
done since. 

The autumn holiday was spent in Ireland, which he had 
not seen since 1883, Landing at Dublin he struck south, 
visiting Lord Monteagle and Henry Butcher, and then 
made his way up the west coast. Travelling through 
Donegal and Londonderry he reached Belfast, where he 
was shown over Harland and Wolff's by Mr. Pirrie, delivered 
a speech to local Unionists, and lectured on Proportional 
Representation to the Philosophical Society. The tour 
ended as it began in Dublin, where he discussed his impres- 
sions with T. W. Russell, the O'Conor Don, Richard Bagwell, 



and Bishop O'Dwyer. The journey suppHed him with 
ammunition for his autumn campaign. " I return a more 
convinced Unionist than ever." The difference between 
Ulster and the rest of Ireland was moral even more than 
material. The settlement of the land question would 
dispose of Home Rule. " It wiU not at once kill the 
demand, but it will abate it. And if a Home Rule Parha- 
ment were to be established, it would start with better 
prospects," Land purchase should be regarded as a safety- 
valve where the friction of the dual system is intolerable ; 
but it should be neither universal nor compulsory. 

While opinion in the constituencies seemed to be veering 
towards Gladstonian Liberahsm, an unexpected stroke of 
fortime revived the spirits of Unionists and spread dismay 
in the Home Rule ranks. Parhament reassembled on 
November 23, and Courtney took the place of the Speaker, 
whose wife was dying of cancer. The Leader of the House 
desired to substitute a mere expression of thanks for the 
usual detailed reply to the Queen's Speech, in order to 
shorten the debate on the Address. Courtney anticipated 
opposition, and Gladstone at once rose to formulate objec- 
tions. But the Address was voted the same evening, for 
Members could think of nothing but the O'Shea divorce 
case and of its political consequences. Though the Irish 
Members were ready to back their chief, Gladstone's letter 
demanding his retirement was followed by Pamell's des- 
perate fight for existence. The savage quarrels of the 
NationaUsts and the exposure of the Irish leader filled 
Englishmen with disgust, and postponed the conversion of 
" the predominant partner " to Home Rule. After the 
buffetings of 1889 and 1890 the Government recovered its 
breath in 1891, when it paid for the loyal support of Liberal 
Unionists by the aboUtion of school fees. Free Educa- 
tion had figured in the " Unauthorised Programme," and 
Chamberlain was not the man to drop a popular cry because 
he had changed his party. The Government Bill was a 
Chamberlain measure, and no member of the Cabinet was 
half so interested in its fortunes as the Member for West 
Birmingham. The Chairman of Committees cared as little 


for Socialistic Radicalism in 1891 as in 1885, and declined 
to support it in the Division Lobby. 


Easter. — Stay with Evelyn Ashley at Broadlands. Chamber- 
lain there. He asked me if I had " any influence over Courtney." 
I said " Not much ; no one has." " Well, whatever influence 
you have, use it to instil into his mind never to refuse the closure 
during these next months whatever the circumstances." 

Courtney's dislike of Free Education, however, was 
shared by few, and the BiU had an easy passage through 
Parliament. Before starting for Germany and Tirol at the 
close of the session, he wrote to congratulate the Chief 
Secretary on his intention to include Minority Representa- 
tion in the scheme of Irish Local Government which he was 

To Arthur Balfour 

August 29. — I am extremely glad that you delivered yourself 
at Pl5anouth as you did on Local Government in Ireland, and 
that you intimated that the representation of minorities would 
be aimed at in your scheme. It is remarkable that none of your 
critics has noticed this intimation, and I interpret their silence 
to indicate uncertainty how it should be met. Harcourt told me 
before the prorogation that you had told him as much and his 
instinct was naturally one of opposition ; but I think Morley's 
inchnation (if nothing more) would be the other way, and I 
beheve it would be extremely difficult to marshal a united 
opposition against the provision. The remonstrances your formal 
announcement has provoked against deahng with Local Govern- 
ment at all in Ireland are no more than you must have expected 
and will not disquiet you. We return in October, and in the latter 
part of that month I shall be visiting my constituents and making 
a series of poUtical speeches. I intend in these to deal with the 
expediency and necessity of a measure of Local Government in 
Ireland again and again, and I shall of course dwell on the repre- 
sentation of minorities as an essential part of the measure. I 
hope the tale won't appear too often told, but the persistent 
advocacy may gain in force what it loses in wearisomeness. At 
all events I shall do everything I can by way of preparation, and 
if when the time comes there is anything you would like specially 


noted I shall be glad to hear from you. It is early to talk of next 
session. You showed in the Purchase BiU that you could fight 
single-handed, perhaps better than with assistance ; but on the 
Local Government Bill you would have to face a somewhat 
different opposition, and the thought sometimes occurs to me 
whether I could now and then give assistance that might be 
useful. Raikes has passed away very suddenly. I had not 
suspected physical weakness. He was an excellent Chairman of 
Committees and I look upon myself as his pupil. I wish you 
could take his place as Member for the University. The ties of 
Manchester may be too strong, but if you could with honour 
leave those sheep in the wilderness all Cambridge men would hail 
you. I must not run into gossip. My wife joins me in kindest 

While the Chairman of Committees was enjojdng himself 
on the Continent, the National Liberal Federation met at 
Newcastle and drew up what was known as the Newcastle 
Programme. Home Rule naturally occupied the fore- 
ground of the picture ; but Local Veto and Disestablishment 
of the Church in Wales were formally adopted as fighting 
issues for the election of the following year. Each of the 
three planks had numerous and powerful enemies ; but one 
of them, at least, had no terrors for Courtney. Disestablish- 
ment, he told his constituents on his autumn visit, was a 
matter of time, place and circumstance. Many Churches 
flourished though unconnected with the State. Essential 
reforms could not be obtained from Parliament ; and, 
speaking as a Churchman, he would be glad to remove the 
fetters. DisestabUshment in Wales was near at hand ; and 
if it were to come later in England it would be in some 
degree owing to growth in the life and energy in the Church. 
His general attitude towards current issues, new and old, 
was set forth in a letter to a Bodmin correspondent. 

To a Constituent 

I deplore the dependence of the finances of India upon the 
opium trade. I would join in any step to prevent the increase 
of that dependence, such as forbidding the introduction of opimn 
into countries it had not entered, and I should be glad to see 
measures taken to contract the trade ; but I cannot join in any 


vote for stopping it altogether — at all events until I see how the 
loss is to be made up. The net revenue is less than it was, but 
is still too large a sum to be abandoned at the risk of bankruptcy. 
As to Temperance legislation at home I have often declared in 
favour of Sunday closing ; but I have always added it would be 
necessary to except London. London hours might perhaps be 
reduced. I should add that though prepared to vote for a bill 
for England I am still of opinion that it would be better for each 
county to make a bye-law for itself. As to Local Option I voted 
last session for a Welsh Local Option Bill of a very crude character, 
but I did so deUberately as expressing my conviction that some 
measure of local restraint or prohibition must be passed. I 
cannot, however, honestly say that I think this question is near 
settlement. I doubt whether any person on either of the two 
front benches has appUed his mind to drawing a bill on it, perhaps 
I ought to say since Mr. Bruce's abortive bill of twenty years ago. 
I always thought very well of that measure myself as honest in 
intention, as one that would long ere this have been largely 
operative had it been adopted, and as one that might have been 
extended when time proved its utility. It is possible that when 
the hour of legislation comes Parhament will fall back upon its 
principles if not upon its provisions. The experiences of our 
Colonies, of our kinsmen in the United States and of Northern 
Europe show that the question is not easy and that many experi- 
ments will probably be tried in deaUng with it. 

While the armies were gathering for the coming battle, 
three familiar figures left the stage on which they had 
played an active part. On October 6 the Irish leader's 
stormy life came to an end, and on the same day the blame- 
less Leader of the House passed away. But the removal 
of PameU and W. H. Smith affected Courtney's fortunes 
less than the death of the seventh Duke of Devonshire, 
which terminated the long career in the House of Commons 
of Lord Hartington, whom he had followed with confidence 
and admiration since 1886, and substituted as the Liberal 
Unionist leader a man with whom he had nothing in common 
save a dislike of Home Rule. 

From the Duke of Devonshire 

December 30, 1891. — Of all the tributes to the memory of my 
father which I have received I value none more highly than yours 


I hope that you over-estmiate the effect of my removal from the 
House of Commons. During the last session or two I have felt 
that there was not much occasion for activity or exertion on my 
part in the House. If there is more active work to be done in 
the next session, I am sure that it will be as weU or better done 
by my successor, and my only apprehension is as to a popular 
excess of zeal. 

In the last session of the Salisbury Parliament Mr. 
Balfour, though no longer Chief Secretary, introduced his 
Local Government Bill for Ireland. The measure was hotly 
attacked by the Opposition and coldly welcomed on the 
Government Benches ; but it included the promised cumu- 
lative voting and earned the blessing of the Chairman of 
Committees. Nobody, however, expected it to pass, for 
the General Election was in sight. Easter and Whitsun 
were spent in electioneering, and on June 26 ParUament 
was dissolved. Courtney's Liberal friends hoped that he 
would hold the seat, and Mundella effusively declared at a 
dinner-party in Cheyne Walk that he and John Morley 
would go down and help him if there was any real danger 
of losing it. The sitting Member, however, felt no tremors, 
and defended the six-year record with vigorous conviction. 
" Peace and friendship have been maintained," he declared ; 
" we have had no wars nor rumours of wars. There is no 
real criticism of Lord Sahsbury's administration of foreign 
affairs." Mr. Balfour's rule in Ireland had been thoroughly 
successful, and Home Rule was as needless and dangerous 
as ever. The estabUshment of County Councils was a 
peaceful and beneficent revolution. " Looking either at 
the foreign, colonial or domestic poHcy of the Government, 
it deserves Liberal support." Most Liberals, however, 
thought otherwise, and the seat was held by the greatly 
reduced majority of 231. 



The Home Rulers emerged from the polls with a majority 
of forty, and it was generally expected that a new Chairman 
of Committees would be appointed from the ranks of the 


August 4. — ^The new Parliament meets and I go down, as I 
am to keep my old seat until the new Chairman is appointed, 
about which there is great discussion in the papers. The Glad- 
stonian papers are taking it for granted that it is a party 
office and must go with the Government. There is no precedent 
either way, and L. has a strong opinion that one ought to be 
created making the Chairmanship a non-party post, seeing that 
he has so much to do with the closure now and that the office is 
almost a new one in that respect. I hope and beheve he will 
refuse to go on as Chairman even if they ask him, for I want 
him to guide opinion on our side more than he can do in the 
Chair and take a more active part in the warfare. I wonder 
if I am wrong. Anyhow I am in agreement with his constituents. 

The suspense was soon over, and it was announced that 
a lawyer of no special distinction or capacity was to rule 
in his place. Courtney's reflections on the changes in the 
poUtical landscape were confided to a valued friend who 
had fallen on the field of battle. 

To Arthur Elliot 

August 16, 1892. — I moaned over your defeat ; it was one 
of the worst incidents of the Election. I know none more 
disgusting ; and the Election was fruitful in pretty bad things. 



John Morley makes no secret of his vexation not only in his 
own case but at the final result for the party. A victory without 
power ! A Government established but too weak to get through 
their first work. As to himself I have a feeUng that he will be 
re-elected at Newcastle despite the 3000 majority at the General 
Election. I am writing at the Reform Club where not so much 
is known as you will know when this reaches you. The place 
is full of fussy expectants and I have retired to the Library 
where silence is imperative. I hear Labouchere is in the Smoking 
Room speaking his mind freely. Mr. G. is a superannuated old 
goose and Arnold Morley is too ridiculous. He, Labby, has 
received no communication whatever ! ! ! X. is moving about 
anxiously doubting whether he may not be passed over. I 
tell him it is not too late. Another nervous shadow finds 
London detestable in August — wonders how anybody can endure 
it. I have seen this kind of thing go on two or three times before, 
and a real artist could make a great picture of it. These poor 
devils with desire gnawing at their hearts are a sight for the gods, 
but I don't feel as if we were a very jolly spectacle. One would 
have preferred to knock Home Rule on the head, or, barring that, 
to be knocked on the head ourselves ; but neither being done 
we have a stormy, doubtful time ahead. If the Old Man has 
really treated Labouchere as nobody, he has provided a whip 
for himself at once. We may really have another General 
Election within twelve months, and what a servitude life will 
be for those who got in with narrow majorities 1 I have sworn 
I will not be a slave. 

The Unionist Ministry faced the new Parliament, and 
after a short, sharp debate were defeated on an amendment 
to the Address moved by Mr. Asquith. 


August II. — My old seat I suppose for the last time. The 
speech of the evening was Chamberlain's — very clever, splendidly 
clever, very bitter. The Terrace was crowded, and, except the 
few prominent Opposition leaders who look dreadfully anxious, 
everybody is happy. The outgoing Government look cheery, 
Mr. Balfour beaming like a boy about to have a long-deferred 
holiday. The rank and file Unionists look forward to having 
their fling and more fun and less grind, while the rank and file 
Gladstonians are full of coming triumph and many hopeful of 
promotion. We Unionists don't think Home Rule can come 


with the size and composition of the majority, and look forward 
to a certain wholesome clearing of the air with Mr. Gladstone 
in power again. 

Courtney was of opinion that the new Ministry should 
have fair play. The country, he told his constituents, 
seemed to have determined to give the Old Man another 
chance. The temptation to join with discontented factions 
and eject the Government must be resisted. Continual 
changes were undesirable. The Gladstonians should have 
the opportunity of performing what they had promised, 
so that, if they failed, their failure should be clearly attri- 
buted to the fact that their promises were impossible of 
execution, not to factious opposition. It was asking a 
good deal of human nature ; but abstinence from " factious 
opposition " was no effort to the most independent Member 
of the House. Moreover the Chief Secretary was his inti- 
mate friend, and he was ready to co-operate with the Home 
Rulers in giving Ireland everything except Home Rule. 
Mr. Morley was no sooner reinstated in Phoenix Park than 
he sent a pressing invitation to his friend to pay him a 
visit. He had congratulated the Member for East Cornwall 
on his victory, " notwithstanding your bad poUtics," and 
had received in return good wishes for his victory in the 
troublesome bye-election, " as magnanimous as they were 

From John Morley {to Mrs. Courtney) 

November 20, 1892. — ^Where are you ? Where is your 
promise ? When do you come under this humble roof ? Why 
did you not congratulate me about Newcastle ? I hope you are 
both flourishing Hke green bay trees. 

A visit to Dubhn proved impossible ; but the autumn 
holiday included a brief sojourn at Whittingehame, where 
they found a family party. " A large, solid, comfortable 
house," wrote Mrs. Courtney in her Journal. " Very much 
loved at home is Prince Arthur, and it is pleasant to see him 
strolling about with a pruning stick cHpping his trees and 
shrubs on the Sunday afternoon." On the way south the 


Roman Wall and the coast castles of Northumberland were 

The first session of the fomrth Gladstone Ministry opened 
on January 31, and the first business after the debate on 
the Address was the introduction of the second Home Rule 


February 13. — The great day, the great declaration has come. 
It was a grand sight. The Old Man spoke strongly at first but 
with weakening voice towards the end of his two and a quarter 
hours. It was a wonderful effort for eighty-four years, and with 
one side of my mind I admired it all, while the other Ustened 
with indignation to this long-expected Bill. 

The novelty of the measure was the retention of the 
Irish Members, who were, however, only to vote on Irish 
and Imperial matters. The Nationahsts had acquired a 
new and doughty champion in Edward Blake, who had led 
the Liberal party in Canada, and whose maiden speech 
made a marked impression ; while the Unionist case was 
supported by Randolph Churchill, who broke silence after 
a long interval but whose right hand had lost its cunning. 
Courtney had never spoken on Home Rule in the House ; 
but he was now unmuzzled, and on the last day of the 
First Reading debate he followed Blake and Chamberlain. 
He reiterated his old conviction that a subordinate Parlia- 
ment, though possible in theory, was impossible in practice. 
Ireland must be governed either from Dubhn or from 
London. Any attempt to modify the course of the ship 
would be fiercely resented, and would have to be either 
weakly abandoned or peremptorily enforced. The future 
of Ireland would depend on the character of the Assembly, 
not on the clauses of the Act ; and the new Parliament 
would be httle more than the Irish Members sitting in 
Dublin. There was no provision in the Bill for the repre- 
sentation of minorities, and the Irish Unionists would be 
helpless in face of the NationaUst legions. Slow but steady 
progress had been made since the Union. Patience, courage 
and goodwill would in the long run produce a new Ireland. 



It was a most trying time for him ; for members always rush 
out after two or three hours' excitement when the dinner-hour 
is nigh. He did not speak well, and we both went away rather 
sorrowful. Two days later Sir John Lubbock called and would 
not have it that L.'s speech was a failure, but only less well 
deUvered than usual. He is a dear, kind man and cheered us 
by being more sanguine about defeating the Bill than I am. 
Horace Plunkett came afterwards and we liked this new Irish 
Unionist M.P. very much. 

A dinner with Chamberlain, at which Lord and Lady 
Salisbury were among the guests, supplied further en- 
couragement. Courtney was, however, as a rule more 
effective on the platform than in the House, and when 
Lord George Hamilton, who had sat in Parliament with 
him for fifteen years, heard him during the Easter recess 
at a great Unionist demonstration at Pl5anouth, he was 
surprised by the warmth and vigour of his oratory. While 
denouncing Home Rule as "an injustice before God and 
man " he worked hard to improve the Bill, taking an active 
part in the discussions on the Committee stage. The Chief 
Secretary told Margaret Courtney that her brother's speeches 
were the best and most useful on either side, and that he 
and Mr. Gladstone always Ustened with attention to them. 
Though as strong a Unionist as ever he was not invariably 
in agreement with the line taken by his leaders. He had 
always held that if a Home Rule Parliament was set up it 
should control the tariff, and he now advocated the con- 
cession of that power — a position which in a strong Free 
Trader surprised some of his critics. But the knowledge 
that the House of Lords would reject the Bill cast an air 
of imreality over the debates, and much of it was voted 
without discussion and with the aid of the closure. 

At the invitation of his leaders Courtney moved the 
rejection of the Third Reading on August 3. Rising 
immediately after the Prime Minister he met the complaint 
of obstruction with the rejoinder that the Bill had been 
incompletely discussed. Passing to the graver counts in 


the indictment he maintained that no change of such 
magnitude had ever been made with such a small backing. 
If an Irish majority was for it, an EngUsh majority was 
against it. The measure was constitutionally and finan- 
cially unworkable, and the Lords would be doing their duty 
in throwing it out. " At the last election the people did 
not have the Bill before them. Next time they wiU, and 
they will reject it." It was a vigorous fighting speech, 
convincing enough to those who lacked the instinct and 
vision of nationahty. A few days later the second Home 
Rule Bill was rejected by a ten to one majority in the Upper 
House. " We have had a weary time," he wrote to Arthur 
EUiot, " despite the interest of many of the constitutional 

When the main BiU of the session was out of the way 
Courtney reminded his constituents that " except in opposi- 
tion to Home Rule " he was a Liberal stiU. His friend 
Lord Hobhouse used to say that he was the only man who 
could rightfully caU himself a Liberal Unionist. He blessed 
the Parish Councils BiU on its second reading, and in 
Committee pressed though in vain for the cumulative vote. 
" The Lords now have the Parish Councils Bill in hand," 
he wrote at the close of the long discussions ; " but neither 
they nor we will have modified it in any reaUy important 
degree. It wiU pass, and in view of its good results, which 
are considerable, we must take the risk of its evil." The 
prolonged session yielded httle fruit ; for the Employers' 
Liability Bill was withdrawn when the Upper House insisted 
on contracting out. The Government possessed as Httle 
strength in the country as in the House, and Gladstone's 
unexpected retirement in the spring of 1894 diminished the 
already slender capital of the firm. It was impossible to 
witness the close of his career, declared Courtney to his 
constituents at Easter, without strong sympathy and some 
emotion. The old Leader was an enthusiast ; his successor 
was a cynic, calm, wary and self-possessed, wealthy and 
fond of racing. He had listened to his first speech as 
Premier in the House of Lords, and his confession that the 
predominant partner must be converted before Home Rule 


could be passed was a vindication of its recent action. The 
Peers never opposed when the people's mind was made up, 
and they were often wiser in details than the Commons, 
as when they insisted on contracting out. But the Upper 
Chamber was far too big. Every three of the present 
Peers should elect one of themselves, and new blood should 
be introduced by the creation of Life Peers and by represen- 
tatives of County Councils and County Boroughs. 

Throughout the session of 1894 Courtney steadily sup- 
ported the Government. Harcourt's death duties, which 
were utterly repugnant to the Conservative mind, appeared 
to him sound finance ; and he had never concealed his 
conviction that the Church of the minority in Wales ought 
in justice to be disestabhshed. He had explained his views 
in a letter to a constituent shortly before the election of 

To a Clergyman 

November 16, 1891. — It is quite true I told my constituents 
(what I had often told them before) that Disestablishment would 
come, and the only novelty in my recent remarks lay in the 
suggestion that there might be a growing feeling within the 
Church that on the whole it had better come. Even this was 
not quite new. You speak as if the Church would be left quite 
penniless. There would be some deprivation of this world's 
goods, but much would be left, so much that under the economical 
administration of a responsible Church body there would be still 
a large nucleus of endowment for every want, and the loss would 
be scarcely felt. The Irish Church was doubtless especially 
fortunate in the time of the rearrangement of its funds, but 
allowing for this its history is most encouraging. Many Irish 
Churchmen would not go back, setting against the compara- 
tively insignificant loss of endowment the gain in freedom and 
in the power of organising the developing resources. I do not 
for a moment believe there would be any check in the real work 
of the Church. You say the question is one for laymen as 
much as, even more than, the clergy. I have always so regarded 
it. In fact my own reluctance to contemplate Disestablishment 
has always been largely due to the apprehension that the Dis- 
established Church would be controlled almost exclusively 
by ecclesiastics ; but a time must come when advantages and 
disadvantages have to be balanced against one another. Do 


not, however, suppose that I think Disestabhshment imminent. 
That is not my opinion. But permanent forces are working 
that way, and on the other hand that " moderate amount of 
legislation " you look for to remove disadvantages becomes 
yearly more hopeless and in truth will never be accomplished. 
I deprecate above all things the defence of the Church degenerat- 
ing into a poor struggle to maintain more or less of silver and gold. 

He naturally adhered to his opinion when the Govern- 
ment introduced their Bill in 1894, though he consented to 
abstain from supporting it in the Division Lobby. 

To a Correspondent 

May 7, 1894. — I am afraid my answer must be what you 
expect rather than what you desire. I cannot see my way 
to vote against the Welsh Disestablishment Bill, although I am 
prepared to defer so far to the wishes of many of my friends 
as not to vote in its favour. I know this attitude will displease 
many and may please none, and I am not unmindful of the 
consequences that may follow. In my judgment it is a grievous 
error to tie together in an inseparable bond the poUtical organisa- 
tion of the Church in Wales and that of the Church in England. 
You probably saw the letter of the Headmaster of Rugby 
(Dr. Perceval) in Friday's Times. It agrees so much with 
what I have thought and spoken that I might adopt it as my 
own ; not with any desire to screen myself behind authority, 
but for the proof it offers that a man may be a faithful Church- 
man and yet think the Welsh EstabUshment ought to be undone. 

Opposition to Home Rule appeared to Courtney to 
involve support of every remedial measure for Ireland ; and 
the Chief Secretary had no more powerful aUy in his earnest 
endeavour to reinstate the evicted tenants. He vigorously 
defended his vote for the Second Reading of the BUI in an 
Open Letter to a Constituent. He had advocated this 
policy at public meetings during and after the election. 
Mr. Balfour's Land Purchase Bill of 1891 accepted the 
principle of reinstatement as purchasers, subject to the 
landlord's consent, Mr. Morley's Bill allowed it if such 
consent was unreasonably withheld, in which case the 
landlord would be bought out. If the Unionists returned to 


power, they would have to pursue the same course. " It 
is not in the public interest that a cloud of landless men 
should be hovering about the land they once held." 

This statesmanlike view of Irish needs was not shared by 
the Conservatives, to whom the compulsion of landlords 
was an abomination. To the innumerable amendments 
placed upon the paper the Government replied by a closure 
resolution ; for the session was far advanced and the inten- 
tion to wreck the Bill was unconcealed. After two days of 
unprofitable wrangling in Committee Courtney delivered 
one of the most impressive speeches of his life. " I cannot 
help expressing my profound regret at the deplorable con- 
dition in which we are landed. It is a matter of Imperial 
policy. You may get half a dozen individuals — certainly 
not a majority of the landlords — unreasonably preventing 
what you say is a reasonable solution, and you will not 
allow the interference of the State for the removal of these 
plague spots. In the interest of Ireland I am profoundly 
moved by the spectacle before us of the certain failure of 
the Bill. Who is responsible for it ? Is it the impetuosity 
of the Government with its closure resolution ? Is it even 
now too late for a settlement ? Perhaps what I say is like 
one crying in the wilderness and saying Peace, Peace, when 
there is no peace. Some solution ought to be possible which 
would redeem this House from this worse than degradation, 
the saving of a measure bringing peace and relief to that 
most distracted country." The phrases were simple and 
unadorned ; but their effect was almost mesmeric. 


July 31. — The House is in Committee with some hundreds 
of amendments to go through. Sir W. Harcourt had put down 
a notice of a guillotine resolution to include Committee and 
Report. Leonard has been trying privately to get the leaders 
on both sides to agree to some compromise. John Morley very 
willing, Harcourt seemed ditto, and L. wrote strong appeals to 
Mr. Balfour and Mr. Chamberlain. So I went to the House to 
see what the result would be. Sir William got up and moved 
the gag with few words. Arthur Balfour rose full of indignation, 


and made a very clever and fighting party speech. John Morley 
followed with a fighting answer, Chamberlain ditto, and Labby 
scoffed. Then L. rose and made his appeal to both sides for a 
better spirit. I have heard equally fine speeches from him, 
but never one in Parliament which produced the same effect. 
His thoughts were from his heart, his words well chosen, and 
it was undoubtedly what they call the psychological moment. 
The crowded house was Uterally shaken by it, and for half a 
minute it seemed as if his appeal would succeed. But alas 
Harcourt had been collecting sharp arrows in reply to Balfour's 
and Chamberlain's and could not forego them ; so, though 
making a kind of offer, he so covered it with attacks and sneers 
that the game was up. Goschen followed with a miserable 
screaming speech, and the guillotine was voted. I shall never 
forget the interest and excitement of that hour, my triimiph 
at L.'s success or my grief at the miserable result. But one 
result has been quite a sensation in the papers, and letters and 
words of praise from various friends on both sides. 

Mrs, Courtney's picture of the scene was in no way 
over-coloured. " It was perhaps the most dramatic debate 
of this generation," wrote the 5^. James's Gazette. " The 
effect of the speech was almost marvellous to those who 
know the profound cynicism of the assembly. But the 
secret was simple. It was its downright honesty, its obvious 
truthfulness that conquered the House and stirred the best 
impulses in every Member." " His practice as Chairman 
has given to his speeches a slightly didactic tone," com- 
mented the Westminster Gazette ; " but last night he was 
moved from his equable professorial temper by a sort of 
strange, prophetic wrath at what Seemed to him the sad 
and wicked scene that was being enacted. Depths were 
roused unknown to the House. It will endear him to the 
Irish Members, who suddenly realised that they had in this 
stem Unionist, so conscious of their Celtic sins, one who 
had made acquaintance with the depths of Irish suffering 
on that wild Atlantic seaboard." Irish gratitude was 
voiced by Mr. T. P. O'Connor in the Sun. " In language 
of a melodiousness, exaltation and now and then loftiest 
eloquence which were a startling revelation of the possibiH- 
ties in this isolated, self-restrained, rather hard man, he 


held the House in a grip tighter than I have seen any man 
exercise over it for many a day. It was one of those rare 
moments when the ties and obhgations, the rancorous 
temper of poUtical divisions disappear in the atmosphere 
of touching and exalted eloquence." " He awed the 
House," echoed the Daily Chronicle. " Like everybody 
else I fell under the spell and forgot to store his words in 
my memory, while I breathed the high and clear atmosphere 
to which he carried his hearers," 

The appeal was fruitless, and the guillotine resolution 
was carried in an angry House. But the friends of the Bill 
implored him to continue his mediation, and T. P. O'Connor 
came to offer on behalf of the NationaUst party to give up 
the compulsory powers on condition that if the Bill failed a 
compulsory measure should be introduced next year. With 
this ohve branch in his hand Courtney approached the 
rival leaders. The Chief Secretary, anxious to save part 
at any rate of his cargo, proved wilHng enough ; and the 
next step was to urge the Liberal Unionist Peers to accept 
the Second Reading and then make the Bill voluntary. 

From the Duke of Devonshire 

August 5. — I think it is difficult to decide what should be 
done in the House of Lords till we see what takes place on the 
Report and Third Reading in the House of Commons. There 
seems to be a strong objection, not confined to the Conserva- 
tives nor Irish landlords, to giving a Second Reading to the Bill 
with compulsion in it. The uncompromising attitude of the 
Opposition appears to have produced a quite unexpected dis- 
position to compromise on the part of the Government and Irish, 

The Leader of the Opposition and Chamberlain, though 
they had no desire to carry the Bill, did not absolutely 
reject Courtney's advances. There was thus a ray of hope 
when the House met on August 7 for the Third Reading. 


Mr. Brodrick moved the rejection in a landlord's speech, 
but stUl not completely shutting the door. If only L. had 
followed ! But he was told the Irish were going to put up some 



one to make a conciliatory speech, and it was Mr. O'Brien, the 
man most eager for a compromise. But after exhorting the 
Opposition to imitate L.'s noble spirit he went off into a fit of 
insane fury, threatening and insulting landlords and Opposition 
in fine old style. " All is over," was Mr. Morley's word to L., 
who sadly remained silent. One more little flicker, for those 
unaccountable NationaHsts do want the Bill ; and so, when 
only an hour was left, half for Mr. Balfour and half for Mr. 
Morley, up got Dillon and claimed to answer Chamberlain, 
who had intervened. Mr. Balfour refused to give way ; but 
there was evidently an organised call for Dillon, who then asked 
the Government if they would adjourn the debate so that he 
might speak. Mr. Morley agreed, but something unforeseen by 
the Irish party occurred. Arthur Balfour waived his right to 
speak. Poor Dillon, who had evidently risen to gain another 
day in hope of saving the Bill, made a very flat speech. Mr. 
Morley followed, and the Third Reading was carried, Leonard 
voting for it. 

A week later Mr. Balfour, dining at Cheyne Walk, 
admitted that his host's speech had made such an impression 
that, though he personally was against a compromise, he 
could not have resisted the pressure on his own side if it 
had not been for O'Brien's outrageous speech. The failure 
of the compromise negotiations sealed the fate of the measure 
in the Upper House. 

From the Duke of Devonshire 

August 8. — I imagine there is very little chance after last 
night's debate of any arrangement being come to in the House 
of Lords as to the Evicted Tenants Bill. Still it is possible that 
suggestions may be made to Liberal Unionist Peers to endeavour 
to get the Second Reading agreed to with the object of convert- 
ing the Bill into a voluntary one. I doubt the possibihty or 
expediency of this course under any circumstances, but I am 
quite sure that it is absolutely impossible unless the Government 
are prepared to take some step and open some communication 
with Lord Sahsbury before the Second Reading. When the 
Peers have come up to vote against the Second Reading, it will 
be impossible to induce them to vote for it on the chance of the 
amendments they may be able to introduce in Committee and 
of their acceptance by the Government in the House of Commons. 
Nothing less than an undertaking by the Government that they 


would themselves propose the amendments necessary to convert 
the Bill into a voluntary one, and to meet other objections, 
would have a chance of success, and I do not know that this 
would. I do not think that it would be fair to the Opposition 
that they should be asked to take the responsibility of converting 
a BiU, the principle of which they disapprove, into one which 
they could accept. To accept from the Government a totally 
different Bill would be another matter. 

The time for compromise had passed, and the Bill went 
forward to its doom. In commending it to the Peers the 
Prime Minister paid a warm tribute to Courtney's attempted 
mediation ; but the House of Landlords had scant S5niipathy 
with evicted tenants and rejected the measure by an over- 
whelming majority. 

The autumn holiday was spent in Scotland ; and a 
visit to Mr. Haldane at Cloanden was followed by a pilgrim- 
age to a shrine which attracted few pilgrims. 


September 26. — ^A beautiful and most interesting day. L. had 
long been wanting to go to Haddington, the old home and last 
resting-place of Mrs. Carlyle, of whom I may call him a sort of 
posthumous lover, for he delights in her letters and all the 
incidents of her brilliant existence amid more than common 
sorrow. A large house first attracted our attention. L. went 
up to inquire, half hoping it might be the house. It was a Bank ; 
but the manager told us that his family were old friends and 
that the funeral had been from the house. Following directions 
we soon came to a singularly pretty, half-defaced fagade on to 
a narrow street, still a doctor's house ; and a long passage took 
us to the entrance. We were shewn into the drawing-room, 
a pretty room looking over the large back garden with Adam 
mantelpiece. We pictured the vivacious young girl and the 
many admirers who came into her Hfe before " the young wild 
beast," as L. calls him, appeared. Then to the Cathedral, 
a much finer building than I had imagined. Her grave Hes 
amid sun and shadow. The pigeons were cooing amid the ruins, 
and the whole scene was lovely and touching. Wandering back 
another way we saw in front of us a very old man. L. ran 
after him and asked him the way to the old school where Janey 
Welsh was taught. He turned out to be Dr. Howden, whose 
father was a partner of hers, and he gladly gave us a good deal 


of information. We lunched at the George in the coffee-room 
where she spent a long evening alone on her last visit so graphic- 
ally recorded a few years before her death. To our surprise, 
just as we had finished, our old gentleman, who was over eighty- 
five, came to seek us. " He ought to have shewn us over the 
place ; was it too late ? " We joyfuUy threw over our train 
and saUied out with him, again to the Cathedral, over the old 
bridge, to the school where Irving taught, hearing all the time 
about Mrs. Carlyle. 

During the winter Courtney took a leading part in 
securing Carlyle's house in Cheyne Row for the public. He 
had met him in the later 'sixties, when on one occasion he 
espied the prophet walking alone in heavy rain without an 
umbreUa. With some difi&dence the younger man offered 
the shelter of his umbrella, which was accepted. Carlyle 
was full of the Reform Bill enfranchising householders, and 
of his pamphlet entitled Shooting Niagara. Courtney 
proved a good listener, and at the end of the walk he received 
an invitation to pay him a visit some day ; but he hesitated 
to take advantage of a chance meeting and never crossed 
the threshold of Cheyne Row till years after the old man 
was dead, and an opportunity arose of rescuing it for the 
public. He asked the Chief Secretary to support the 
movement with a speech. 

To John Motley 

January 20, 1895. — When I asked the Hon. Secretary two 
days ago why your name was not on the enclosed list I was told 
that you were suspected of want of sympathy. I expressed 
utter disbehef. Carlyle is no more infallible than any other, 
and a poor Irish Secretary may feel nervous about testifying 
any respect for a biographer of Cromwell ; but these are con- 
siderations for feeble men without any sense of proportion. 
I hear the movement is not going forward as rapidly as could be 
wished, and LesUe Stephen and his fellow-workers are organising 
an afternoon meeting at the Mansion House in about the third 
week in February, and they want you to come and make a speech. 
Ripon has promised, and I am ready to go if the Lord Mayor 
wiU aUow me to enter his dweUing ; but your presence would be 
of the greatest help. Don't let me labour it any longer. 


An invitation to Huxley was declined on other grounds. 

From T. H. Huxley 

January 23, 1895. — I asked my doctor to-day if I might go 
and speak at your meeting and he said No with a big N and an 
expression not compUmentary to my wisdom — shared I am 
sorry to say by " the woman that owns me." And very sorry 
I am that I cannot say a word for the grand old Diogenes- 
Socrates who dragged me out of the mud of British Philisterei 
half a century ago. 

Courtney's speech at the Mansion House was described 
by one present as the most notable feature of the meeting, 
" fehcitous in phrase, tender in feeling, discriminating in 
appreciation, and deUvered with admirable ease and oratori- 
cal effect," Though sealed of the tribe of Mill and dis- 
agreeing both with Carlyle's opinions and methods of 
thought, he never ceased to admire the moral fervour, the 
piercing insight and the rugged independence of the old 
prophet. " Every man and woman experiences a time 
when the ordinary life seems to fail and a new life springs 
up within them, and they have their feet firmly planted 
in a large room and their vision and conception of the 
world's history undergoes a change. This is what some 
of us owed to him. I believe his readers increase year by 
year and the circle of his influence extends. Nearly forty 
years ago I made a pilgrimage to Craigenputtock, and more 
recently to Haddington, Grateful as I am to him, pro- 
foundly as I respect him, I was never his slave. In his want 
of sensibility to his wife and in her proud silences you see 
something more interesting than is to be fouled in any novel. 
Wherever manhood is respected, wherever courage and 
worth are honoured, wherever gratitude is felt towards one 
who, coming with a coal of fire to touch our lips, brings us 
again within the world of spirits, this movement has a 

On December 4, 1895, the centenary of Carlyle's birth, 
Courtney took part in the formal opening of the House as 
a museum. Mr. Morley, who was in the chair, declared 


that the popular title of the Sage of Chelsea was singularly 
inappUcable to the old prophet and preacher ; but that 
if he had to find a man who deserved it, he would not 
have far to look. The recipient of this generous tribute 
retained his interest in the house till his death, and was 
never tired of conducting friends and visitors through its 

In addition to taking his share in the excursions and 
alarums of party politics Courtney's mind was occupied 
with other grave problems of national warfare. The 
recurrence of industrial and agricultural depression forced 
statesmen and economists to search for its causes and 
remedies ; and some turned to Bimetallism as others to 
Protection. The contention that two metals would vary 
less than one was presented to the House of Commons at 
the beginning of the session of 1893 ; and the debate was 
rendered memorable by a brilliant rejoinder from the Prime 
Minister. The veteran financier argued that though gold 
varied, it varied less than silver, and that, though such 
variation affected fixed incomes and fixed charges, it con- 
cerned ordinary bujdng and selling in a very minor degree. 
His main theme, however, was the practical difficulty 
involved in the change. Bimetallism, he declared, would 
enable debtors to cheat their creditors by discharging 
their debts in a depreciated currency ; and if such an 
alteration was threatened every creditor would at once 
insist on full repayment in gold. 

The speech led Courtney to expound his views in an 
article entitled " BimetaUism Once More," which appeared 
in the Nineteenth Century and attracted considerable atten- 
tion. As a debating achievement, he began, Gladstone's 
performance was miraculous, and the yoimgest might have 
envied its vivacity. Its tone was rightly conservative, for 
changes should only be made if more injustice is involved 
in inaction. " I now for the first time venture to put forth 
some opinions of my own, not until after much hesitation, 
and only under the cogency of a beUef that there is a serious 
argument worthy of being examined." He had indeed 
already examined it. " I was one of the six members of the 

^^^^uX ca ^ <2^^ ^^^^4^*P 

To face pa^e 310. 


Gold and Silver Commission who could not recommend 
bimetallism, and who traced the recent fall in prices rather 
to causes touching the commodities than to the appreciation 
of gold. We added that we were far from denying that 
there might have been some appreciation, though we could 
not determine its extent. Let me make a confession. I 
hesitated a little about this paragraph. I thought there 
was perhaps more in the suggestion than my colleagues 
believed. I am now satisfied that the appreciation was 
greater than I then suspected." Turning to Gladstone's 
contention that gold had varied but httle, he rejoins that 
incessant variations in its purchasing power were revealed 
in the index numbers. For instance between 1850 and 
1864, during the gold discoveries, prices rose 30 per cent, 
and between 1873 and 1893 fell 30 per cent. Therefore 
gold, measured by its command of commodities, was not a 
stable standard. If the cause of variation lay in the condi- 
tions governing the production of commodities, why did 
the ciurrent flow so powerfully first in one direction and 
then in the other ? In recent years we had been passing 
through a period of appreciation, and no one could tell how 
long it would last. Silver, on the other hand, had remained 
steady in relation to commodities, falling Hke them, but no 
faster. If gold was as unstable as silver and had hampered 
industry and commerce by its recent appreciation, men 
might well ask. Why not go back to the days before 1873 
when the members of the Latin Union recognised both 
metals as legal tender ? Accounts could then be paid in 
doUars or francs, pounds or rupees indifferently ; for their 
ratio was fixed, and the variations of exchange were not 
beyond the narrow limits of the cost of transmitting bullion. 
The effects of the depreciation or appreciation of either 
metal were minimised, since they were diffused over the 
widest area. With the rupture of the bimetallic tie the 
ratio had changed enormously. " Five years ago I joined 
in deprecating any attempt to establish an international 
agreement for the free coinage of gold and silver. I have 
advanced with further experience and reflection to the beUef 
that it is to be desired." If we adopted Bimetallism most 


Powers would follow, though the fixing of the ratio might 
prove a difficult task. 

The heretic returned to the charge at the end of the 
session, when Mr. ChapUn attacked the Government for 
sanctioning the closing of the Indian mints to the free 
coinage of silver. In reply Harcourt sheltered himself 
behind the Report of the Royal Commission of 1888, which 
pointed out the danger of Bimetallism in India. Courtney, 
who had been claimed by the opener as a recent convert, 
rose to correct Harcourt's statement that Lord Herschell 
and his colleagues had condemned Bimetallism. Ten of 
the twelve members were convinced of the possibiUty of 
maintaining an international ratio between gold and silver ; 
but Bimetalhsm was not before them. They were simply 
asked whether there was any reason for rejecting the pro- 
posals of the Indian Government. As a matter of fact the 
Indian Government would have preferred Bimetallism, and 
only proposed to stop the free coinage of rupees as a pis 
alley, in order to limit the quantity and keep the ratio steady. 
Lord Herschell and his colleagues assented to this demand, 
and the faU of the rupee was arrested. Courtney's leaning 
to BimetaUism was shared by Mr. Balfour, and to some 
degree by Goschen ; but most of the economists were 
against them, and there was little prospect of securing 
international co-operation. A change of such disturbing 
magnitude could only be made under the compulsion of bad 
times ; and as the horizon brightened the cry died away. 

A new and important task was undertaken in the spring 
of 1893 in accepting the invitation to preside over a Royal 
Commission on London Government. Among his colleagues 
was an old and valued friend who had sat with him on the 
Gold and Silver Commission. 

To Lord Farrer 

March 26, 1893. — I hope London will not prove as difficult 
as silver ; but it cannot be very easy. The exact reference has 
not yet been given me ; but I understand it is to devise a plan 
for bringing the City and the County Council into one, at least 
for larger purposes. I rejoice we are only five. 


The work was congenial but laborious, for the road was 
encumbered by vested interests. 

To Sir John Scott 

February 2, 1894. — I have the London Unification Commission 
now in hand, — a troublesome job, the City being in temper and 
mind most difficult to handle, perhaps not so bad as a young 
Khedive. Though we, the Commissioners, may propound a 
fair solution, I doubt whether Parhament under any Government 
would soon take it up and carry it through. 

The Report appeared in the early autumn of 1894 and 
was received with a chorus of approval. " Have you not 
been very proud and happy lately ? " wrote Mrs. Bamett 
to Mrs. Courtney. "To do such a job, and to do it so 
wisely that all sorts say ' Well done,' is a triumph." 

From Lord Farrer 

October 3, 1894. — From what I heard at the L.C.C. I think 
you might be the first Lord Mayor of United London. I say 
this in spite of Bimetallism ! 

The Government which appointed the Commission fell 
before it could carry out its recommendations ; and the 
Chairman had to wait till 1899 to reap some of the fruits 
of his labours. While busily engaged on the problem of 
London government Courtney continued his attendance at 
the Royal Commission on Labour, which had been appointed 
in 1890 under the Chairmanship of Lord Hartington and 
accumulated vast masses of miscellaneous information. 
He approached his task with a deep distrust of short cuts 
to reform, which was strengthened as witness after witness 
marched across the stage and paraded his panacea. 

To Sir John Scott 

February 2, 1894. — I am anxious about the future of the 
Poor Law. Many wild ideas are about. My attitude threatens 
now to give me trouble in my constituency, especially as a phrase 
of mine has been twisted into a charge against labourers that 


their highest ambition is to get outdoor relief. This we may 
hope to survive ; but a flabby sociaHsm working through the 
machinery of the Poor Law may do infinite mischief to the 
nation. As to the Labour Commission, we shall have done much 
good work in collecting and arranging evidence, and the Report 
of the great majority will be full of good sense ; but as it will 
be more negative than positive, exposing the futihty of many 
suggestions and supporting few, it may be received with a feeling 
of disappointment. 

The session of 1895 opened with dissolution in the air. 
Courtney dined with the leader of the Liberal Unionists at 
Devonshire House, and found some of his friends expecting 
the Government to be defeated on the Address. On the 
last day of the debate he informed the Ministers that they 
had exhausted their authority and should go to the country 
on Home Rule. If they preferred to remain in office, they 
should stick to humdrum legislation. The claim of the 
House of Commons, and especially of a feeble, uncertain 
majority, to represent the nation was imjustified ; for the 
nation was represented by the two Houses jointly. If, 
however, the Prime Minister desired to fight on the issue 
of the Lords, his opponents would gladly take up the chal- 
lenge. Despite this vigorous attack the support of Liberal 
measures in 1893 and 1894 rendered him an object of sus- 
picion to some of his Conservative constituents. He had 
no complaint to make of such criticisms, to which his creed 
inevitably exposed its adherents ; but he declined to 
purchase the retention of his seat by the sacrifice of a jot 
or tittle of independence, and made it clear that if his 
views were disapproved he must seek another constituency. 
Lord Moimt Edgcmnbe, though himself a critic, implored 
him to promise to remain, assuring him that if he would 
stick to the constituency his constituents would stand by 

From Lord Mount Edgcumbe 

April 18. — ^The arguments I should use in support of your 
candidature would be (i) that no one could uphold the interests 
of the constituency with greater abihty or less self-seeking ; 
(2) that you are as straight as a die, and make no professions 


that you will not carry out ; (3) that you are thoroughly staunch 
on Home Rule. The crossing of the stream cannot be far off, 
and a change of horses now would be a great misfortune, involv- 
ing not only the uncertainty of finding another candidate, but 
probably also opening up the embittering question of whether 
the seat is to be regarded as Conservative or Liberal Unionist. 

The correspondence was closed by a cordial letter from 
Cheyne Walk. 

To Lord Mount Edgcumbe 

April 29, 1895. — I am much obUged by your letter, which 
is very pleasant reading to me. I wiU not desert the constituency 
as long as, retaining the freedom I have exercised in the past, 
I am assured of the hearty support of your pohtical friends. 
It was the uncertain or even unfriendly attitude of some of those 
that tempted me to consider other suggestions. I hope you 
will have no difficulty at your meeting. I tried to make it plain 
at Liskeard as well as at Plymouth and elsewhere that I claimed 
a continued allowance of freedom, and if the members of the 
Council, having my speech before them, are of your mind and 
spirit, there will be no thought on my part of leaving the division. 



Before the session of 1895 was more than a month old an 
event occurred which closely concerned Courtney's fortunes, 
and which for a few crowded hours seemed likely to deter- 
mine the remainder of his public career. 


Saturday, March 9. — Leonard picks up the Times before 
going out to the Breakfast Club and reads out the startling 
news that the Speaker is to resign immediately, as soon as a 
successor can be agreed upon. Who will it be ? Though it 
might and would be mortifying to be passed over, we do not 
want it. But of course there is no danger, as the Times leader 
says that some member of the Ministerial party will have that 
splendid post. The difficulty is that there is no obviously good 
name outside the Government. Inside Campbell-Bannerman 
is the favourite. Sir Robert Reid and Arnold Morley are also 
mentioned. The Westminster Gazette heads for Leonard, but 
fears the Government must have one of their own party. My 
feelings are very mixed, but I feel very sad at the possibility 
of giving up our present hfe. We are both ridiculously fond of 
our home and our freedom. " Rather Uke being dead and 
buried," said L. to Mr. Roby, who replied, " But with a splendid 

The Speaker had always been chosen by the party in 
power from the ranks of its supporters, but in the present 
instance the Government had no candidate obviously 
qualified for the post, and the failure of Mr. Mellor, the 




Chairman of Committees during the 1892 ParUament, threw 
into strong relief the vigorous reign of his predecessor. 
Moreover, though Courtney remained one of the most con- 
vinced and formidable enemies of Home Rule, he had 
rendered the Liberal Party valuable support with the rest 
of their programme. For this very reason, however, he 
was unacceptable to the Opposition, who confidently 
expected to be installed in office within a few months and 
naturally desired a Conservative to occupy the Chair. 
Under these circumstances the sudden resignation of Speaker 
Peel on the ground of health created a personal issue of the 
kind which enthrals the House of Commons and sets every 
tongue in the poUtical world and in " society " wagging. 
The Liberal Press spoke out strongly for Courtney. 
" Whether chosen or not," wrote the Daily Chronicle, 
" there is only one opinion that he ought to be." The Daily 
News appealed to the undisputed fact that he had proved 
himself by far the best Chairman of Committees of his 
generation. The Times, on the other hand, while praising 
his ability, knowledge and inflexible fairness, argued that 
he was only a httle younger than the retiring Speaker, that 
he could scarcely bear the burden for more than a few years, 
and that frequent changes in the occupancy of the Chair 
were undesirable. The situation developed rapidly, and 
there seemed every chance of a contested election for the 
first time since 1839. 


Monday, March 11. — Lobbies and newspapers full of gossip. 
It soon becomes apparent that the opposition to him comes 
from the Conservatives, with a few Radicals. The Tory favourite 
is Sir Matthew White Ridley, a sensible, pleasant -tempered 

Tuesday. — Go to my W.L.U. Committee. I am an interesting 
person. All my ladies look sympathetic but say nothing. 
Lady Frances Balfour comes away with me. She feels sure 
that L. is the Ministerial choice, but warns me that there is 
mischief ahead among the Conservatives and that L. must not 
accept nomination without an understanding from the Con- 
servative leaders that they will not oppose him in a future 


Parliament. The situation is no doubt difficult, the Govern- 
ment with a very narrow majority, the Tory party not recognising 
L. as one of themselves. Mr. Chamberlain did not approve of 
L.'s refusal of closure and probably thinks he would be a wrong- 
headed Speaker. 

Wednesday. — Come home from Lord Brassey's to find one 
word from John Morley to me. It murders sleep. 

From John Morley 

95 Elm Park Gardens, 
March 13, '95. 
Very secret. 

Dear Mrs. Courtney, 

Yours, J. M. 

Thursday, March 14. — ^Telegram from Harcourt asking 
L. to come and see him in Downing Street. He says, " It may 
seem absurd, but I am in despair at leaving this house." Yet 
I see the opposition is making him tend to accept. After 
breakfast I go to see John Morley, who kindly told me a good 
deal. " The Cabinet had decided against one of their number, 
though C.-B. would hke it." I asked if it would not be a relief 
to them for L. to refuse it. " No, it would put them in a great 
fix. They would not accept a Conservative candidate. Why 
should not L. take it ? He was the best man, and we should 
get used to it and in a few months we should not mind the routine. 
What else will he do ? Of course the Conservatives would ask 
him to join their next Cabinet ; but would he feel comfortable 
among them ? " I asked about the opposition to L. He said 
on their side it was small and would collapse directly the 
Government announced their decision formally. No arrange- 
ments had been come to with the Tories, but of course L. would 
see the Duke of Devonshire, and of course he and Chamberlain 
would insist on their alUes behaving decently to one of their 
leading men. 

Courtney's engagement with Harcourt was for 2 o'clock, 
and his first instinct was to consult his old leader. On 
reaching Devonshire House, however, he was informed that 
the Duke was closeted with Lord Salisbury and Mr. Chamber- 
lain, and would see him later on at the House. Harcourt, 
as he expected, offered him the nomination and pressed for 


an immediate decision, which was naturally refused. Meet- 
ing the Duke at the House he learned that the Tories would 
oppose now, and again in the next Parliament. " I suppose 
you are too impartial for them. They are getting very 
confident of a big majority when the election comes, and it 
may not be easy to form a CoaUtion Government. How 
would you Hke to find yourself a Viscount in three months ? " 
The Duke was certainly not encouraging, and Chamberlain, 
the next friend to be consulted, merely remarked that the 
matter would be discussed at a meeting of the Liberal 
Unionist members. From Chamberlain Courtney passed 
to the room of the Leader of the Opposition, who did not 
mince matters. His candidature, declared Mr. Balfour, 
would be opposed by the Conservatives now, and the 
Opposition would probably be renewed in the next Parha- 
ment. He was shocked that he should think of such a post, 
when he was doing work of such value as an independent 
member ; and he dehcately hinted that he was too old for 
the post. After this douche of cold water he determined 
not to stand, and on the following morning he informed the 
Leader of the House of his decision. 

To Sir William Harcourt 

March 15. — I was getting over my first aversion in the 
thought that I might perhaps do some good in this of&ce, but 
I find my six years' service in the subordinate Chair has not 
commanded general satisfaction and there would be strenuous 
opposition now and if necessary hereafter. In these circum- 
stances my old feeling revives with invincible strength. I 
hope this will not give you much trouble ; and in dismissing 
the subject I must again thank you for the very kind way you 
proposed it. 

To his sister Margaret 

March 16. — I told Harcourt yesterday that I could not accept 
his offer. There was every prospect, indeed a certainty of united 
Conservative opposition, and I was told also that the opposition, 
if unsuccessful now, would be renewed in a new Parliament. 
This threat might not be carried out, but one could not be sure. 
Accordingly I declined, and it is a great relief to us, to Kate 


as much as myself, if not more — but we axe both vexed at the 
way the reUef has come. The Conservatives are very small 

His decision was received with mixed feelings by his 

From William Rathbone {to Mrs. Courtney) 

March 15. — I was very sorry to hear that Courtney had 
dechned a contest for the Speaker's, — very sorrj'^ for the House ; 
but for him there will be much to be said for not being buried 
alive in the prime of his intellect and energies which I trust may 
do great things for the country. Harcourt's opinion is that 
he was the best Chairman of the House he in his long experi- 
ence had ever seen. I don't know if I told you that dining 
with Gladstone at Dollis Hill a few days after Courtney had 
called him very peremptorily to order he broke out into enthusi- 
astic praise of his clear, quick, just judgment, firmness and 
impartiality ; and Harcourt, whom Courtney had called to 
order oftener than most, entirely agreed with him. Indeed 
I think all our front bench agree and will be very much dis- 
appointed. A man may be too just and strong for mean men 
and must take the consequences which in this case will, I hope 
and beheve, be for his happiness, usefulness and fame. 

From Sir Henry James {to Mrs. Courtney) 

March 20. — Your husband and I have been too long in close 
aUiance for me not to recognise all his sterling good quaUties, 
and his candidature would have had no sincerer supporter than 

From T. B. Bolitho {M.P. for West Cornwall) 
to Mrs. Courtney 

March 20. — Thank you very much for your confidence. 
You must have had a trying ten days, but I can easily understand 
that the chief person concerned, having done that which he 
thought best for the interests of the House, remains calm, 
dignified and unsoured even by unexpected defections. Of all 
men in the House I know of no one so unhkely as your husband 
to resort to the pernicious system of lobbying. The attitude 
of the Conservatives is perhaps not unnatural, but if they don't 


take care they will jeopardise the relations between themselves 
and the Liberal Unionists. I've been burning with indignation 
at the report that many — or even any — Liberal Unionists should 
be opposed to your husband. If any of our Leaders have been 
secretly undermining his chance, I for one am quite ready to 
denounce such action. 

From Mrs. Meinertzhagen {to Mrs. Courtney) 

I am so glad Leonard has refused to be in a competition for 
the Speakership. He ought to have it as a matter of course. 
That comes of helping those horrid, ungrateful Tories. You'll 
see they'll throw all the Liberal Unionists on one side, whenever 
they can stand on their legs without them. I hope the Liberals 
will stick to their man and not give the nomination over to the 
Tories. I hope they'll find Leonard less pleasant out of the 
Chair than he would have been in it. 

From Lady Frances Balfour {to Mrs. Courtney) 

I think, and have thought, and have said, that the Con- 
servatives have made a mistake in this matter, a mistake they 
will pay for. Arthur could not but tell the facts to Mr. Courtney. 
There was opposition from all quarters of the House. I don't 
think he did think him the right man for the Chair, but apart 
from that, it was his business to find out, and I know long before 
the Government spoke to Mr. Courtney he was made aware 
that it would not be unopposed. Your husband has had his 
own theories as to a Chairman's duty, and it may be summed up 
roughly in this way, " the protection of the minority." Now we 
all know that when Chairman it was from this point of view he was 
steadily and persistently criticised. He knew it — it was matter 
of public comment how good-humouredly unmoved he was when 
made aware (say at a dinner party) of the strong feeling he had 
excited. He took that view of his post, and everyone respected 
his sticking to his views ; but he never persuaded the people 
he was right, he only convinced them he had a strong individuality 
and was no respecter of persons. You must pay for individuality, 
and this opposition is the pa5mient. 

After receiving the condolences or congratulations of 
his friends for a week, Courtney once more found himself in 
the world's gaze. His refusal to stand had completely up- 
set the plans of the Government, who naturally declined to 



accept a Tory Speaker and had no suitable candidate of 
their own, since Campbell-Bannerman, who wished for the 
post, could not be spared. They therefore informally 
renewed the offer, after preparing the way by a visit from 
John Morley. The Chief Secretary pressed his old friend 
to accept, assuring him of an undivided Ministerial vote 
except for a handful of malcontents led by Labouchere, 
whose defection would be offset by Liberal Unionist support. 
Courtney thereupon marched off to Downing Street and 
promised Harcourt an answer in a day or two. His position 
now was that if the Liberal Unionists not only promised 
to vote for him if he stood but actually wished him to stand, 
he would accept the nomination. 

To his sister Margaret 

March 23. — Just a line to keep you in the running. The 
Government are pressing me in many ways to consent to be 
nominated, and so are some Liberal Unionists. The situation 
has moreover changed now Campbell-Bannerman is withdrawn, 
and the Government nevertheless will not accept White Ridley. 
So I wrote Chamberlain yesterday afternoon asking him to call 
our party together, and I would abide absolutely by their 

To Joseph Chamberlain 

March 22. — I am much pressed to reconsider my refusal to 
be proposed for the Speakership. The offer is not attractive 
to me, though I am assured and may be inclined to believe that 
I could be of use in it ; but the discussions and criticisms of the 
last ten days have produced a reaction so that I am not unwilling 
to accept what I am still far from coveting. I desire however 
to be guided by the judgment of our party. I would ask you 
therefore to call the Liberal Unionist members together and put 
the matter before them. Many things could be said and argu- 
ments used which could not perhaps be easily addressed to 
myself, and they (the Liberal Unionists members) would be able 
to determine without prejudice what is best. I am prepared to 
abide absolutely by their decision. 

P.S. — It must not be supposed that the Government have 
asked me again to allow my name to be put forward, but I have 
reason to think that if I were ready to consent an invitation 
would be forthcoming. 


To Joseph Chamberlain 

March 24. — A complaint may be raised at the meeting of our 
friends to-morrow that I have thrown a great responsibility 
on them, without indicating upon what considerations I would 
have them base their decision. I hope they will decide upon 
pubUc grounds alone. Any private interest or supposed private 
interest of mine is of the smallest importance compared with 
the public interests involved and must not be allowed to govern 
their decision. I am giving you a good deal of trouble. 

The meeting of the Liberal Unionists was held on Monday, 
March 25 ; but as the notice was short the attendance was 
small. The meeting decided against the candidature, and 
in the course of the afternoon a brief telegram (" No ! 
Leonard ") announced the news to Cheyne Walk. Before 
walking home he despatched the news to Penzance. 

To his sister Margaret 

You will probably see the news in the W.M.N. , but I must 
write a line before going home to Kate — I should be too late 
there. The Liberal Unionist members to-day decided unani- 
mously against any Liberal Unionist standing in opposition to 
M. W. Ridley ; and this ends the matter. It is a great relief 
to have it over. 

The result of the meeting was formally communicated the 
same evening by its Chairman. 

From Joseph Chamberlain 

March 25. — A meeting of the Liberal Unionist members 
was held here this afternoon in accordance with your request, 
and your two letters were laid before them. The subject was 
fully discussed with sole reference to the great pubHc interests 
involved, and the following resolution was unanimously passed : 

That this meeting of the Liberal Unionist members of 
ParUament, being informed that Sir M. White Ridley will be 
nominated for the Speakership by their Conservative allies, 
is of opinion that the name of no Liberal Unionist candidate 
should be submitted in opposition. 

In forwarding this Resolution, which was arrived at in 
response to your desire and is guided by the judgment of your 


party, I am unanimously requested to express to you at the 
SEime time the high estimation in which you are held by all your 
colleagues and their sense of the patriotic spirit with which 
you have been ready to subordinate personal claims to wider 
considerations of pubHc interest. 

An unofficial account of the meeting was despatched to 
Chelsea the same evening. 

From T. B. Bolitho {to Mrs. Courtney) 

March 25. — You will have heard all about it. A small meeting, 
about twenty — everything said of your husband which could be 
desired. For the resolution all but four or five voted. Of 
course no good could have come of moving an amendment. 

After the final decision letters of condolence and regret 
again poured in, from Home Rulers no less than Unionists. 

From W. S. Caine {to Mrs. Courtney) 

March 28. — I cannot trace the devious paths by which 
Mr. Courtney has been diverted from the Speakership for which 
he was designated by every member of the House who has the 
true interests of Parliament at heart ; but I would Uke, if I 
may, to tell you how keenly and bitterly disappointed I am at 
the result, and how impossible it appears to me to find any 
worthy successor to Mr. Peel apart from Mr. Courtney. I 
believe, even in spite of the unhappy decision of the party leaders 
with whom he is associated, if your husband could have seen his 
way to accept nomination, all opposition would have faded 
away, and his would eventually have been the only name sub- 
mitted to the House. Even if it had been otherwise, he would 
have been elected by a very large majority. Every member 
whose opinion is worth having among the Liberal party has 
been soHdly for Mr. Courtney all along, and I wish I were able 
to convey to you the profound esteem and respect in which your 
husband is everywhere held in all quarters of the House. To 
me personally it will be a matter of hfelong regret that the 
House has lost a Speaker whose term of office would have been 
historic, and who I fear is the only man who could have piloted 
us with prosperity and dignity through the troubled waters 
through which we must sail in the early future. However 
I can only hope that Mr. Courtney is reserved for even higher 
service to the State. 


A different view was expressed in a letter from the 
Manager of the Times, which had opposed his candidature 

From C. Moberly Bell {to Mrs. Courtney) 

April 3. — Rightly or wrongly I felt that your husband would 
be wasted as the Speaker. It is a very honourable position — 
of great influence in the House, but of no influence at all outside. 
Witness the fact that even to-day they can't decide whether 
Mr. Peel was a Liberal Unionist or a Gladstonian. AU this is 
as it should be ; but people who have definite opinions, who do 
not vote aye or no solely according to party, are so unfortunately 
rare that it seems to me preposterous to choose one of those few 
and place him where it becomes his duty to suppress all his 
personal convictions. 

After Courtney's second and final refusal of the nomina- 
tion, the Government fell back on Mr. Gully, who, though 
a popular K.C. on the Northern Circuit, was said never to 
have spoken in the House or sat on any Committee. The 
final scene in the drama took place when the Commons met 
on April 10 to choose a new Speaker. " After Mr. Whit- 
bread and Mr. Birrell had duly proposed and seconded 
Mr. Gully, and Sir John Mowbray and Mr. Wharton had 
done the same for Sir M. White Ridley," writes an eye- 
witness, Mr. Basil Williams, then a House of Commons' 
clerk, " the two candidates addressed the House. Mr. 
GuUy made a fairly good speech, but Sir Matthew's was 
better in dignity and style. At this stage the House as a 
whole was evidently more in favour of Ridley ; he was 
much respected on all sides of the House, and on this 
occasion he and his proposer had made the better im- 
pression. The Liberals, too, knew so httle of Gully that 
they could hardly be expected to feel nmch enthusiasm 
for him. At this point, however, the Liberals' backs were 
stiffened by an unfortunate speech of Mr. Balfour's, who 
attacked the Government for proposing so inexperienced a 
candidate, and threatened to turn him out in the next 
ParUament. Thereupon up leapt Sir William Harcourt in 
a towering passion to defend the Government's choice. 


Why, in effect, he said to the Tories, have we had to make 
this choice ? ' I will tell the House why. Mr. Gully was 
a second choice forced on us, because you rejected the man 
we had chosen ' — turning round and looking to Courtney, 
where he sat on the third bench below the gangway — ' the 
man who of all others is evidently fitted by his experience 
and his qualities for this post.* ^ This great tribute to 
Courtney, while it incidentally won the Government their 
case, made the debate end more as a triumph for the man 
who had refused to be put forward, since he was denied the 
imanimous assent of his own party, than a decision on the 
merits of the two actual candidates for the Chair. Courtney 
himself looked on grimly humorous, as was his wont, and 
left the House without voting." 

When the battle was over the Ministerial Press gave free 
rein to its chagrin. The Daily News iattributed the result 
to Courtney's refusal to be a hewer of wood and drawer of 
water for the Tory party In an article entitled " Exit 
Aristides," the Westminster Gazette explained the situation 
in fuller detail. " He was ruled out because the Tories 
opposed him and because the Liberal Unionists did not 
strongly support him. One heard frequent allusions to the 
Evicted Tenants Bill. Lord Sahsbury gave us a foretaste 
some months ago when he ridiculed and abused him at the 
Queen's HaU and fell foul of his proposals for the unification 
of London. The fact is that he is the last of the Liberal 
Unionists — that is, the last of the Liberals, who, in defending 
the Union, have not found it necessary to throw over their 
Liberahsm." The resentment felt by some of his Liberal 
friends, however, was before very long to be mitigated by 
the unexpected development of events. " Either Courtney 
or Campbell-Bannerman in my opinion would have done 
well," wrote Sir Wilfrid Lawson a few years later ; " yet 
it was probably better that for one cause or another both 
teU through. Some years later Courtney became one of the 

^ Note by Mr. Basil Williams. — I find on referring to Hansard that 
Harcourt's words are not reported, on the ground that they were drowned 
in cheers. I was perhaps more fortunate than the reporters, as Harcourt 
was facing towards the part of the House where I was sitting and had 
his back to the reporters' gallery. 


best and bravest of the Pro-Boers, whose courage in the 
cause of peace and justice ennobled our pubHc life. Had 
either of them become Speaker we should probably have 
lost them from our fighting forces." ^ 

Though the final result was a momentary disappointment. 
Aristides himself shed no tears over his fate. He was of 
course well aware that he was better fitted for the post by 
knowledge and experience than any of his competitors, and 
the attainment of one of the highest offices in the State 
would have been a new feather in the cap of the Penzance 
lad who owed nothing to birth or fortune. Yet he cared 
so little for the distinction that he tvi-ice dechned the nomina- 
tion which carried with it the certainty of election. The 
Leader of the House jocularly complained to Mr. Asquith 
that he was trying to get the cock to fight ; but Courtney 
had too much respect for his own dignity to allow himself 
to be imposed on a dissentient minority. Though he 
shrewdly suspected that his cross-bench mind would con- 
tinue to bar the way to Cabinet rank, he once more displayed 
an almost quixotic indifference to personal considerations, 
and he never regretted his choice 

To a Correspondent 

April 15. — As for the Speakership I rejoice in my freedom. 
I looked with something like dread at the possibility of being 
absorbed — swallowed up — extinguished in the duties of that 
office ; and as I cannot doubt they will be well discharged by 
Mr. Gully I do not think I can reproach myself from shrinking 
from the submersion. 

A few days later he surveyed the events of an exciting 
month in an address to his constituents in Liskeard. " I 
am better, you are better, we are all better, that the Speaker- 
ship has not come to me. From the beginning I dreaded 
rather than desired the great post. It was not because I 
was afraid I should be defeated that I did not stand. I 
believe if I had been nominated I should have got a con- 
siderable majority. The Speaker is a great man, but in 

^ G. W. E. Russell, Life of Sir W. Lawson, p. 226. 


regard to politics he is like the Great Llama. He stands 
aside. He must never discuss them. I have maintained 
my freedom, and at a great price. The thing I treasure 
above everything else is to maintain an independent seat in 
the House of Commons, strengthened by your affection." 
The lack of unanimity in the House and the preservation 
of his independence had been sufficient reasons for declining 
the guttering prize. The wisdom of his decision was 
questioned at the time by many of his friends, and again a 
few months later, when Gully was quietly reinstated in the 
Chair by the victorious Unionists ; but it was to be ratified 
in the following year by an event which it was equally 
impossible to forecast and to evade. 



A FEW weeks after Gully was installed in the Speaker's 
Chair the Government was defeated on the vote for cordite. 
No one had expected it to Hve long, for the majority had 
steadily dwindled. Shortly before the fatal moment Har- 
court had left the Chamber with the remark, " This is very 
flat " ; and, seeing Labouchere, he called out jocularly, 
" Can't you get up a crisis for us ? " So little importance 
was attached to the division that Courtney returned to the 
Hbrary after he had voted, not waiting for the announce- 
ment of the figures.^ Lord Rosebery at once resigned a 
position which he bitterly described as responsibility without 
power, and Lord Salisbury formed a Coahtion Government. 
It was generally expected that Courtney would be invited 
to join. The Times placed him as a matter of course in the 
Cabinet ; and a cartoon of F. C. G. represented a scene of 
musical chairs with the Prime Minister at the piano and the 
Member for East Cornwall amongst the few who had already 
found a seat. Lord Spencer and John Morley expressed 
their conviction that he would be offered an important post, 
and the latter seriously remonstrated against his anticipated 
reluctance to accept it. A rumour that he would receive the 
Post Office without Cabinet rank annoyed his family, but 
pleased him on the ground that no one would expect him to 

^ For the first and last time he voted without knowing what the 
division was about. He had been reading in the hbrary, and, when the 
bell rang, asked Sir Henry James and other friends, who mischievously 
told him that it was nothing in particular and that he would agree with 
his party. 



take it. He desired office even less than he had desired the 
Speakership ; for he remained a Liberal and could hardly 
expect to find himself at home in a Cabinet controlled by 
Lord Salisbury and Joseph Chamberlain. All speculations, 
however, were soon set at rest by a letter from the Prime 

From Lord Salisbury 

June 30, 1895. — ^A Coalition Government is necessarily formed 
with some regard to the numerical proportions of the two sections 
on whose support it relies. Arithmetical considerations neces- 
sarily receive a weight, at least at first, which it is not pleasant 
to assign to them. But the four members of the Liberal Unionist 
party now in the Cabinet exceed the proportion which the Liberal 
Unionists bear to the party as a whole ; and I could not at this 
moment go further still without running the risk of heart-burnings 
of perilous intensity. I have inflicted this exordium upon you in 
order to explain why I have been unable to offer you a place in 
the Cabinet, and of course it would have been idle to ofier you 
any other. Do not understand me to be so arrogant as to assume 
that you would have accepted such an offer if it had been made. 
That would have been, and probably may be in the future, a 
question you will have to determine for yourself. But my own 
part in the matter requires thus much of defence. It seems very 
probable that after the General Election some revision of the 
arrangements now proposed may become necessary. I hope that 
intermediately you may not see cause to disapprove of the 
Government's action. 

To Lord Salisbury 

LiSKEARD, July 3, 1895. — Your letter of the 30th reached me 
here this morning, and I write to thank you heartily for this very 
frank and friendly communication. Explanation was indeed 
scarcely necessary as I had pretty weU understood how the case 
lay without it ; but it is none the less agreeable because it confirms 
what I had thought. As to the future that must be allowed in 
great measure to take care of itself ; but I think I may say with 
certainty that my own action wiU not in any degree be warped 
by any ranlding feelings, which indeed would be wholly un- 
justifiable. I think you will understand me when I confess I 
draw some satisfaction from the fact that I have not had to 
consider any embarrassing proposal. I am naturally very busy 
here, though my friends are (I think with reason) very sanguine, 
and you must be busier still. 


Once again Courtney fought the election on Home Rule. 
" The Bill," he declared in his address, " was laid aside, 
apparently to the complete contentment of the nation. 
Ireland itself has remained profoundly calm. I trust the 
coming elections will finally dissipate the demand for a 
separate Irish Legislature. It wiU be the duty of the 
Unionist Government to estabUsh County Councils and to 
carry a hberally conceived Land Bill." Whatever might 
have been the merits of the Liberal Government it had been 
condemned by its congenital weakness to plough the sands, 
and it had succeeded in making formidable enemies. Lord 
SaUsbury was confirmed in office by acclamation, and Court- 
ney was re-elected by a majority of 543. To the faithful 
Roby, who had lost his seat, Courtney's position seemed 
" very inconvenient, — Liberal poUtics and Tory supporters, 
with Tory and pseudo-Liberal chiefs turning you the cold 
shoulder." Inconvenient though it was, compensations 
were not lacking, for he returned home with his declaration 
of independence countersigned by his constituents. The 
Conservatives had loyally rallied to his support, and in his 
speech after the poU he celebrated the triumph of non-party 
views over " the falsehood of extremes." 

In the autumn Courtney and his wife started for a holiday 
in Egypt under the auspices of Sir John Scott, now Judicial 
Adviser to the Khedive, who had long urged his old friend to 
pay him a visit. He had spent a fortnight in Alexandria 
and Cairo on his way to India in 1875 ; but he now fulfilled 
his ambition to sail up the Nile and study the results of the 
British occupation in detail. The visitor paid his respects 
to Lord Cromer, who presented him to the young Khedive, 
renewed his acquaintance with Nubar, whom he had met in 
Paris, and heard from Slatin Pasha the story of his captivity 
in the Mahdi's camp and his romantic escape. After tasting 
the delights of Cairo he accompanied Sir John on his annual 
tour up the Nile to inspect the Courts of Justice and to give 
advice to the village magistrates. The journey embraced the 
rarely visited Fayum, and conversations with the village and 
district officials gave him an insight into the working of native 
institutions. Though he was now sixty-three years old, his 


energy astonished his companions, and he was usually the 
latest to bed and the earUest to rise of the party. He met 
Flinders Petrie in the Tombs of the Kings, and on his return 
to the capital made the acquaintance of Tigrane Pasha and 
visited the Government's new Giris' School under the 
guidance of Artin Pasha, the Minister of Education. The 
closing days of the hohday were darkened by the ominous 
news of Cleveland's message and the Jameson Raid. The 
travellers reached home at the end of January 1896, after 
an absence of ten weeks. 

The atmosphere of the new Parliament was tranquil 
enough, for the Opposition were depressed by their defeat 
and the Nationalists were disunited. But though the 
strength of the Government in the House and the country 
was beyond challenge, their prestige suffered a damaging 
blow in the first session. An ambitious Education Bill was 
introduced, instructing County Councils to appoint a Com- 
mittee to supervise and supplement the School Board ; but 
the proposed aid to Voluntary Schools aroused' a hornet's 
nest. Courtney as usual sympathised with parts of the 
rival cases. " I am for undenominational education," he 
wrote in a letter to the Times on May 29, " but I am 
ready for a grant to voluntary schools." This could be 
done without time or trouble by a Treasury grant, and 
assistance from local resources could be provided by a 
separate Bill in the following year. If rate-aid were to be 
given, representatives of the community must be added to 
the management. At a party meeting at the Carlton Club 
Mr. Balfour proposed that Parhament should be adjourned in 
August and meet again early in January to conclude the 
Bill. " Only Leonard Courtney," writes an eye-witness, 
" hfted up his voice against what appeared to all of us an 
obviously absurd proposition directly we left the room." ^ 
Exactly a week later Mr. Balfour announced the abandon- 
ment of the Bill. The collapse was claimed as a triumph by 
the Opposition ; but the Daily Mail declared that the Bill 
had been killed by the Unionist Member for East Cornwall. 

During the Easter hohdays Courtney despatched a 

^ A. Griffith-Boscawen, Fourteen Years in Parliament, pp. 104-5. 


political bulletin to his late host in Cairo, survejdng the 
opening work of the session and his own position in the 

To Sir John Scott 

April 15, 1896. — The Government have got their hands full in 
ParHament just now quite apart from foreign and colonial affairs. 
Their Education Bill is rather gratuitously big and provocative. 
I do not suppose they will be defeated on any serious detail or 
even humiUated ; but if the Bill is to be pushed in its entirety, 
it will occupy a great space of the session and yield numberless 
divisions. Many of its provisions are distinctly bad and unfair. 
Then Gerald Balfour brought in on Monday an Irish Land Bill 
which took him three hours to introduce, and the provisions of 
which are so complex and novel that even if it was submitted to 
a friendly Committee sitting round a table it might occupy some 
weeks. The character of this BiU is good, but where is the time 
for getting it through ParHament ? Add to these two Bills (and 
there are others) the Budget which comes on to-morrow night. 
It will probably contain a big bonus for landowners by way of 
alleviating rates, and if so will be hard fought. Altogether the 
work cut out for us between this and August is more than can be 
squeezed into the time ; and, though all Governments prepare 
more than they complete, this Government is unusually ambitious. 
They are perhaps relying on the broken and distracted state of 
the Opposition, which has hitherto been very noticeable. But 
the Education Bill will bind them together, although the Irish 
members may often support the Government. My own position 
in the House is not unhappy. I am indeed very much alone. 
I have no party nor do I try to make one ; but this perhaps adds 
to the attention paid to my utterances, which seem received with 
respect. Extreme partisans of the Government doubtless resent 
my criticisms, but with the members of the Government I remain 
on very friendly relations. Even Chamberlain, who is most apt 
to feel anger at any one crossing his path, has not manifested it 
this time ; and on Saturday I returned from my Cornish visit 
and speeches to dine with him. As it chanced I had to take 
Mrs. Chamberlain into dinner and she shewed no signs of being 
ruffled. She is indeed always a charming, amiable woman, and 
she was as simple, open, and friendly as ever ; and I should think 
could not have heard much the other way. 

The session of 1896, and indeed the whole career of the 
Parliament elected in 1895, was overshadowed by foreign 


affairs. In the debate on the Address, Courtney deKvered 
the first of his many philippics against the Raid. " I heard 
of it with disgust, and when I learned of Dr. Jameson's 
defeat and surrender I gave imqualified thanks. If the 
Boers chose to raise their voices in singing the sixty-eighth 
Psalm, I should have joined with them heartily," The 
conduct of the Colonial Secretary received a warm testi- 
monial. " He has saved us from a great peril, saved our 
character and our honour. He saw at once what was to be 
done and did not hesitate. His action enables me to resent 
the Kaiser's telegram." On his first visit to his con- 
stituents he denounced " this colossal blunder, this fatal 
inroad," and declared that the urgent duty of the Govern- 
ment was the restoration of confidence. He had been 
scarcely less amazed by Cleveland's message than by the raid ; 
but Lord Salisbury had acted wisely in referring the Venezuela 
boundary to arbitration, and good had come out of evil. 

When the first excitement over the Transvaal and Vene- 
zuela had cooled, the vaUey of the Nile began to claim atten- 
tion. The pubhcly expressed desire of Gladstone and 
Granville to withdraw from Egypt as soon as possible had 
been shared by Lord SaUsbury ; but the Drummond Wolff 
Convention of 1887, providing for evacuation, was wrecked 
by France's objection to the clause conceding our claim to 
re-enter in case of need. Gladstone reiterated the demand 
for evacuation in 1891 ; but when, after the change of 
Government in 1892, France asked for a limit to be set to 
the occupation Lord Rosebery, the Foreign Secretary, 
refused to discuss the question. In 1895 Sir Edward Grey 
announced the decision of the Cabinet to regard any foreign 
settlement on the upper reaches of the Nile as " an unfriendly 
act " ; and in 1896 the Coahtion determined to advance the 
Egyptian frontier to Dongola. 

When Gladstone had raised the question of evacuation 
in 1891 Courtney had backed up his demand. " I realise 
the possible danger to Egypt from quitting it prematurely," 
he told his constituents. " We are doing a great work there, 
and I should deeply regret if it was interrupted and destroyed. 
But if the price of the existing system is the poisoning of 


the poKtical atmosphere of Europe, we are bound to prefer 
the lesser to the greater evil, and let Egypt trust to herself. 
That, however, is not necessary. We could arrange with 
France for a body of international police. The peace of 
Europe is jeopardised by the soreness of France. Let us 
remove that soreness by evacuating Egypt, as Lord Salisbury 
attempted to do in 1887." The friction continued, and 
Egypt was only one of the irritants. Lord Rosebery's 
sentiments towards France, though by no means unfriendly, 
were not exactly cordial ; and the change of Premiership in 
1894 increased Courtney's ever-present fear of colonial 
complications. Desiring to reassure French opinion he 
appealed to Gladstone to issue a message of good-will. 

From W. E. Gladstone 

October 29, 1894. — I am absolutely in sympathy with the spirit 
of your letter ; yet I feel much difficulty about the suggestion 
which it appears to favour. All the first years of my life were 
years in which a cordial understanding with France was the 
avowed aim of all our best and wisest statesmen, and the senti- 
ment has not died out of my heart. I make no secret of it, and 
never should hesitate about expressing it, unless in the case, 
unhappily not an infrequent one, when any declaration, which 
can be made to appear gratuitous, is construed to be due to some 
secret and unavowed motive, and the most sinister considerations 
are attached to it. Naturally, after sixty-two years of public life, 
I have many opinions of my own on public affairs, but I find it 
necessary to be very reserved as to the expression of them. I 
fear that in such a case as this a volunteered expression on my 
part would be interpreted not as a contribution to national friend- 
ship and the peace of Europe but as an overture or bid towards 
resuming a political position. At a dinner which was given me 
in Paris some years ago I endeavoured to do justice to the Re- 
public as not less qualified than any preceding Government for 
the discharge of international obligations. Of course I am not 
minutely conversant with the present state of things, but I have 
much confidence in Lord Kimberley's disposition and his dis- 
cretion. From recollections extending over a great many years 
between 1863 and 1894 I have derived, of course, some diversity 
of impressions at one time and another, but no general mistrust 
or approximation to it, and on the contrary pleasing recollections 
of repeated indications of friendliness and fairness. 


Holding such opinions Courtney naturally opposed the 
advance to Dongola, and he spoke and voted against the 
Government when Labouchere raised the question on 
March i6. If it meant an attempt to conquer the Sudan, 
he argued, it must be condemned immediately. Egypt 
possessed a very strong frontier at Wady Haifa. The 
KhaUfa was weaker than the Mahdi ; and nobody in Egypt 
was afraid of invasion. If it was to relieve the strain on 
Kassala and assist Italy, hundreds of miles away across the 
desert, that help could best be rendered through the Red 
Sea. " There is danger in Europe. Why lock up your 
forces in an absurd and fruitless attempt to recover that 
which is valueless ? We are weakened by our position in 
Egypt ; and to lock up our troops in the Sudan would in- 
crease our weakness." A fortnight later he returned to the 
question in an address to his constituents. The policy had 
been announced, but there was still time to prevent it going 
further. " When the country is once engaged, the voice of 
reason is hushed. If disaster occurs, it must be avenged ; 
if success, it blots out all recollection of right and wrong. 
I do not desire to quit Egypt by the next mail, but to keep 
evacuation in view. I wish us to keep our word. Before we 
go we must have a European agreement on the terms of 
withdrawal and the organisation to be substituted. England 
might reserve the right of re-entry, as Lord Salisbury 
reserved it in 1887. I fear we have failed to bear in mind 
the necessity of training Egyptians to govern the country ; 
for they are all, as it were, second-class clerks. As for the 
Sudan, it is a vast desert. Gordon declared it a useless 
possession ; and it would be nothing but a burden for 
Egypt. If we stay in Egypt, we should get rid of the 
suzerainty of Turkey, educate the people, and keep the 
country isolated by the desert." 

Courtney's voice carried further than that of most 
Ministers and ex-Ministers ; and when Lord Rosebery 
criticised his opinions at the Colchester Oyster Feast in the 
autumn, he addressed a powerful letter to the Times. " Lord 
Rosebery is afflicted by the Armenian horrors. We have a 
right to interfere ; but we are distrusted if not detested by 


every European Power, and we are weak with our swollen 
Empire. The weary Titan has become a Falstaff, gorged 
beyond digestion, incapable of action. Why are we so dis- 
trusted and detested ? What have we been doing the last 
twenty years ? Snatching at continents, pegging out 
claims, interfering as missionaries of order and peace and 
then settling down in permanent possession ; in short, making 
up those two and a half million square miles of undigested 
Empire which satisfy so powerfully the Imperiahstic instinct 
and reduce us to abject impotence. Mr. Gladstone may 
talk of self-denying ordinances ; but could those be trusted 
at Constantinople who have not been able to prove them- 
selves trustworthy at Cairo ? Is there no way of setting 
ourselves right with the rest of civilised Europe, of proving 
our sincerity by act as well as word ? We might surrender 
Cyprus — not restoring it to Turkey but making it a ward of 
Europe under a prince. But the real key to the situation 
is Egypt. We must exchange our exclusive control for an 
international settlement. This transfer has been rendered 
infinitely more difficult by recent operations in the Sudan ; 
but unless and until it is done we cannot claim the trust of 
other Powers, we cannot resent their sneers at our sincerity, 
we cannot hope for co-operation in any part of the East. If 
Lord Salisbury would intimate his readiness for a conference 
on the international settlement of Egypt, the difficulties in 
the way of enforcing order at Constantinople and stopping 
murder and outrage elsewhere would disappear. Never 
before has an ex-Prime Minister proclaimed our incapacity 
in the face of Europe. No Little Englander has ever 
humiliated his country like that. Such is the triumph of 
the Imperial spirit! Such is statesmanship ! " When 
critics of the letter rejoined in the Times that the Powers did 
not want us to leave Egypt, he retorted that in that case 
Europe could make us its mandatory. 

The summer of 1896 forms a dark landmark in Courtney's 


May 20. — Queen's Birthday. Leonard dined with Arthur 
Balfour and joined me afterwards at the Foreign Office. He 



complained he could not see who people were ; had found reading 
a difficulty the day before. Thursday came home from the House 
and said it was no use his going back as he could do and say 
nothing, not being able to read the amendments. 

May 21. — Leonard goes to Nettleship to get new glasses and 
came away much depressed. There is serious trouble in his right 
eye, the only one with which he could see near objects well. 
Nettleship would give no opinion at present as to recovery, but 
advised him to go away to the country, take some anti-gout 
medicine, and see what complete rest would do. 

May 28. — L. again to Nettleship ; he would not let me go 
with him. Came back very gloomy. It was difficult to extract 
from him exactly what Nettleship had said ; but the impression 
was that substantial recovery of sight was unlikely. We were 
both very sad ; but these three days at home wholly alone, 
struggling with our fate, will always be a sacred and partly a 
sweet memory to me on account of his deep feeling and confidence 
in me. 

References to eye trouble are found as early as the 'fifties. 
In her recoUections of the young Don at Cambridge Mrs. 
Bushell recalls " a look of weakness in the eyes." " Let me 
inquire particularly about your eyes," wrote Dr. Willan in 
1859. " I shaU not post this till I have ascertained at your 
house that you are allowed to read and write again. Pray 
avoid all candle-light reading." The trouble, however, 
passed away, and he read and wrote as much as any man of 
his time. His health was magnificent ; and when the blow 
fell in 1896 it came as a thimderclap. Friends and relations 
hastened forward with comfort and counsel. Roby offered 
to accompany him to Wiesbaden. Mr. Stebbing declared 
that even if the worst happened his public career might gain 
more than it lost, since he would win In sympathy what he 
lost in the power of acquiring information. Mrs. Sidney 
Webb implored him to make any sacrifices necessary to 
recovery, since his great capacity for the " Higher Criticism " 
of politics could iU be spared. " I am so very, very sorry," 
wrote Sir John Scott to Mrs. Courtney. " I wonder if all 
the glare of Upper Egj^^t did harm. I used to be anxious 
sometimes, but he always seemed a colossus of strength. I 
trust that with immediate and complete rest it will all come 


right again. But even a temporary privation of the use of 
his eyes must be a terrible blow. He does such excellent 
service in his independent position. Honour in foreign 
pontics and good sense and moderation in home affairs have 
been his two aims." 

Postponing his departure for Wiesbaden till the summer 
holidays, Courtney determined to continue his work as usual, 
and spoke once or twice in the House. His most important 
engagement was to preside at the Cobden Club dinner at 
Greenwich on the jubilee of the repeal of the Com Laws. 
He dictated full notes to his wife, who was prevented from 
accompanying him ; but his sister, Mrs. Oliver, sat by his 
side, ready to aid. His speech delighted the large number 
of foreign guests and was described by Sir Charles Dilke as 
magnificent.^ It was a great encouragement to find that he 
could deliver an hour's address without notes and without 

The withdrawal of the Education Bill brought the end of 
the session within sight, and early in July he left home to 
consult Pagenstecher. He was urged to enter the Khnik and 
undergo a course of treatment. The next two months were 
monotonous but not unpleasant. Friends came and went, 
including Sir WiUiam Harcourt and Sir John Scott, Mrs., 
Fawcett and Moberly Bell. His wife read him the Times 
in the morning and more nourishing fare at night. The 
patient dictated his address as President of the Economic 
Section of the British Association, in which he reiterated 
his emphatic conviction of the essential soundness of the 
doctrines and spirit of the classical economists, and once 
again proclaimed that society could only be reformed by a 
blend of individual self-reliance and voluntary association. 
Frequent bulletins were despatched to anxious friends who 
wrote to encourage and condole. 

From Mrs. Fawcett {to Mrs. Courtney) 

August 3, 1896. — I am feeling so much for you both in your 
disappointment about the effect of the Wiesbaden treatment. 
Actual misfortune, however severe, always seems to me less hard 

1 Published in the volume, Cobden and the Jubilee of Free Trade. 1896. 


to bear than continued suspense and growing discouragement, 
because there is something in an actual misfortune which calls 
out the courage necessary to bear it. Therefore I feel that even 
if the worst which you fear should happen, the present is your 
saddest time, and Mr. Courtney's too. If he should lose his sight 
altogether, he will have the courage to make the most and the 
happiest of his Hfe and years. Harry always told me his worst 
time was when there were hopes still held out to him that his 
sight might be restored. 

From Sir John Scott [to Mrs. Courtney) 

Nauheim. — I wanted to tell you how glad I am to have seen 
you and Leonard. I' had thought of so much worse things and 
I am really relieved to a certain extent. Yet it is a wonderful 
pity, and I am pagan enough to wish the blow had fallen on less 
essentially useful persons. His force hitherto has lain in his great 
knowledge and principles supported by a marvellous grasp of 
detail. The latter will have to sUde a Uttle. 

From A. J. Mundella 

August 27, 1896. — I know it will be a trouble to you if ulti- 
mately you are unable " to tear the heart out of a book " ; 
but, my dear friend, you know so much already that under any 
circumstances you will always know more than anybody else, 
Gladstone perhaps excepted. If you are content to give more of 
your own thoughts to others (as in your Education letter) at the 
expense of reading less of the thoughts of other men, the world 
will be the gainer and your own honour " moult no feather." 
You remember the night on the Treasury bench when I and 
Henry James ran away from Gladstone's interrogations. I 
referred him to you, teUing him " Courtney is a walking encyclo- 
pedia ; he knows everything," and so we left you together. The 
old man has left us and you are left alone the sole depository of 
all the knowledge that is worth knowing, and you have still 
another pair of eyes and hands lovingly, devotedly, at your 
service. May God long preserve them to you, and may you long 
be preserved to each other ! I have an abiding conviction that 
your work in the future will be higher and better than all you 
have done in the past, and I am sure it will have greater weight 
and influence with your fellow-countrymen. 


Throughout the summer hope alternated with dis- 
appointment. Pagenstecher declared that there was no 
danger of total blindness ; but he could hold out httle hope 
of improvement or of ability to read. After two months' 
treatment a fortnight's rest was prescribed and was spent 
at Konigstein in the Taunus. On his return the oculist 
announced that he could do no more. The inflammation 
was gone and the sight improved, but reading was still 
impossible. One of the last letters from Wiesbaden was 
written to the friend whose understanding sjnnpathy had 
been a very present help in time of trouble. 

To Mrs. Fawcett 

October 8. — We are sending you back by post The Oxford 
Reformers. My wife has read it to me to our great pleasure. It 
presents a beautiful view of some detached characters moving 
about among the general vice and cruelty of Europe. The 
affectionate side of Erasmus is brought out much more than in 
Froude's edition of the Letters. I think we may have to go on 
to the Cloister and the Hearth if it is in Tauchnitz. My condition 
has been a little improved but not very much. I am perhaps 
more independent in general conduct, but for reading and writing 
have to depend completely upon Kate. Good-bye, dear Mrs, 
Fawcett. Our united love to you. It was most good of you to 
come here. 

The travellers reached home in the middle of October 
after an exile of three months. Courtney was now aware 
that he would never read again ; but he determined that 
his terrible affliction should not interfere either with his 
public activities or his personal happiness. " InabiHty to 
read and write would have made a recluse and a misanthrope 
of many men with his gifts and hkings," writes Mr, Steb- 
bing ; " but it changed and seemed to affect none of his. 
Secretaries, whose aid to him was most zealously rendered, 
were hands and eyes. He needed and would accept no aid 
to guide his feet. He criticised with keen zest paintings 
and etchings. Remains of sight told him more than most 
men's sharpest vision. And withal the joy in the rays he 
kept ! Only let it not be thought that the privation marks 


an abyss blocking a career, or even a start afresh. It was 
the same Leonard Courtney before and after — if not a little 
more heroically himself." A secretary to help with the 
morning's work was found in Leo Amery, a brilhant young 
Oxford scholar, in whom the old statesman discovered the 
quick intelligence and knowledge of current pohtics that 
he needed. With his aid he prepared an address on the 
American Presidential Election which was afterwards pub- 
lished in the Nineteenth Century.^ 

Courtney's treatment of Bryan's whirlwind campaign 
offers a good illustration of his intellectual characteristics. 
The unanimity and fervour with which the silver champion 
was denounced produced not conviction but reaction, and 
prompted him to independent study of the issues involved. 
" When we remember that the defeated minority were 
American citizens and amounted to a large minority, doubt 
arises whether they could have been so reckless, so anarchical, 
and so unrighteous as has been suggested." DeaUng first 
with the popular notion that the fight was between bimetal- 
list heretics and champions of the gold standard, he points 
out that the Republicans desired to reach bimetallism 
through co-operation with other nations, while the Demo- 
crats declined to wait. Both, therefore, were for the dual 
standard ; and if the Republicans were insincere, at any 
rate they thought it necessary to pose. In the second place 
the Democrats were only asking for a return to the practice 
before 1873, when silver was freely coined into dollars and 
was recognised as legal tender. Silver dollars already in 
circulation had remained legal tender, and the proposal to 
revert to free coinage was no greater crime than to demand 
the reopening of the Indian mints. The argument that 
debts contracted in gold since 1873 would be payable in 
silver was deUberately misleading, since the Constitution 
nullified in advance legislation altering pre-existing con- 
tracts. A nation could not be forbidden to reverse a false 
step. Many friends of gold in England now admitted the 
mistake of demonetising silver in Frarice, Germany and the 
United States ; and Everett's Resolution of February 1895 

^ January 1897. 


in the House of Commons, expressing increasing apprehen- 
sion at the constant fluctuations and growing divergence in 
the relative value of gold and silver, and urging the summon- 
ing of an international conference, had been accepted by 
the Government. Free silver, moreover, though the chief 
plank in the Democratic programme, was far from being 
the only one. " The RepubUcan platform was an appeal 
to some of the worst tendencies of American democracy 
and a defence of one of the most unequal and unjust systems 
of taxation. Protection and jingoism were rampant all 
along the Une." The Democrats stood for Free Trade — 
tariff for revenue only — and for income tax, and against 
trusts and monopoUes. The Republican victory was largely 
the result of the conservatism of ignorance, and gave no 
cause for rejoicing. 

The session of 1897 began early in January in order to 
deal with the relief of Voluntary Schools before the close of 
the financial year. The Bill granting 5s. per head was met 
by an amendment, moved by Mr. Lloyd George, for the 
representation of local authorities or parents on the manage- 
ment of schools receiving the relief. Courtney supported 
both the grant and the amendment. Why should the 
Government, he asked, shrink from this principle ? Did 
Mr. Balfour himself approve of it or did he not ? When 
the Leader of the House refused to reply, remarking that 
its acceptance would make a new BiU and open the way to 
a flood of amendments, he rejoined that the matter could 
have been and could still be arranged by an understanding. 
It must and will come, he added; if not now, then in a 
subsequent measure. The prophecy was to be fulfilled 
some years later ; and the Government preferred to meet 
their critics by promising another Bill to assist the poorer 
Board Schools. 

The second important project of the session was the 
Workmen's Compensation Bill, introduced by the Home 
Secretary, Sir Matthew White Ridley, but in reaUty the work 
of Chamberlain, who seized the rudder on all critical occa- 
sions. The measure was disUked by large employers on 
both sides of the House ; and it was obvious that agriculture 


and other excepted trades would have to be included later. 
The Colonial Secretary did his best to minimise the effect of 
his proposals ; and despite open revolt and secret discontent 
they passed through the Lower House with little alteration. 
Lord Londonderry and Lord Dudley, the spokesmen, of the 
coal-owners, showed their teeth in the Upper House ; but 
the Birmingham influence was too formidable to resist. 
Courtney was convinced that the measure would have had 
no chance if introduced by a Liberal Government ; but it 
aroused no enthusiasm in his breast. " Its worst fault," 
he wrote, " is that it is an illustration of the general senti- 
ment creating pecuniary responsibilities when no moral 
obligation is recognised, and thus, at least for a time, 
corrupting moral standards and developing predatory 
instincts. In the end the new burden will come to be 
calculated as a trade charge, and the judgement on the 
bill must depend on its effect on the moral character of 

At the beginning of the session a debate on Woman's 
Suffrage excited more interest than it had done for many 
years ; for the Second Reading of a Private Member's Bill 
was carried for the first time. A bulletin was. promptly 
despatched to Mrs, Fawcett, who was far away in Athens. 

Mrs. Courtney to Mrs. Fawcett 

February 12, 1897. — ^The speaking was very bad except 
George Wyndham. Jebb was good, but somehow the House was 
tired and talked, and I was getting very sad that Leonard never 
came in from his Indian Committee, as he said he should leave 
the talk to the younger men. Then Harcourt got up and made 
one of his most pompous speeches ; but it was so much better in 
style and voice that I feared it would have influence over the 
fluid-minded, of whom every one said there were so many. How- 
ever, Leonard got in ten minutes and put on his most impressive 
manner, which I think was as good as Harcourt's. We feared 
the Closure Division would have defeated us and no one seemed 
to know how it would go. The Speaker told me he thought we 
should have lost. So you may imagine our joy and astonish- 
ment at the result. As to the future it is not likely to go much 


The main interest of the session of 1897, as of 1896, was 
in foreign affairs. The Cretan revolt flamed into a Greco- 
Turkish war, in regard to which British opinion was divided. 
Though the Prime Minister frankly confessed that in the 
Crimean War we had put our money on the wrong horse, 
there was still a good deal of Turcophil sentiment in society 
and the clubs. Courtney's sympathies were naturally with 
Greece, and he believed that Lord Salisbury, who was no 
friend of the Turk, might have gained more than autonomy. 
Crete, he declared to his constituents in April, had a right 
to join Greece. Italy and perhaps France would have 
joined us in insisting on her severance from Turkey, 
even if Russia, Germany and Austria had stood aloof. 
The Concert was paralysed and Great Britain should act 
without it. 

A more prolonged excitement was afforded by the 
Committee on the Jameson Raid. The Cape Parliament 
had already held an inquiry into the conduct of Rhodes, 
who, it reported, was thoroughly acquainted with the 
preparations but did not order or approve the Raid at 
that particular moment. Since Rhodes accepted the Cape 
Report the main duty of the Committee which met on 
January 16 was to institute a searching investigation into 
the relations of the Colonial Office with the Chartered 
Company and Johannesburg ; but this was precisely what 
it omitted to do. Its proceedings were followed by Court- 
ney, who had specialised in South African politics for 
twenty years, with strained attention. " On the first day 
Rhodes was a very bad witness, confused, uncertain, shifty," 
he wrote on the conclusion of the drama ; ^ " but on the 
second he seemed to have recovered himself, to have 
measured his enemies, and to be rather the master of the 
Committee than their subject. Harcourt's style of examina- 
tion was pompous and ineffective. Blake proved the most 
efficient member for purposes of examination. Labouchere 
did injury to the cause he desired to serve. On the other 
side Hicks-Beach was ready and direct in his questions, 
while Chamberlain astonished his friends by his imprudences. 

* In the Journal. 


George Wyndham shewed a singular personal devotion to 
Rhodes throughout. Jackson, the Chairman, was ill at the 
commencement, and never got a proper mastery of the 
work." The Committee completed the evidence by Whit- 
suntide ; but after the recess it recalled Flora Shaw, whose 
interchange of telegrams with Rhodes and Rutherfoord 
Harris, the Secretary of the Chartered Company, appeared 
to connect the Colonial Secretary with the Raid. Suspicion 
was increased when it was announced that the Committee 
could neither secure the attendance of Rutherfoord Harris 
nor find out where he was, and that Mr. Hawksley, the 
soHcitor to the Chartered Company, possessed some tele- 
grams which he refused to produce. Edward Blake 
withdrew in disgust, while Labouchere drew up a Report 
declaring that inquiry was fruitless owing to the refusal of 
information, and regretting that the alleged compHcity of 
the Colonial Office was not disproved by searching examina- 
tion. The Majority Report sharply condemned Rhodes, but 
pronounced that neither the Colonial Secretary nor any of 
his subordinate officials had any knowledge of the Raid. 

On the pubUcation of the Report Sir Wilfrid Lawson at 
once asked for a day for its discussion, to which Mr. Balfour 
repUed that no useful purpose would be served. Labou- 
chere therefore attempted to raise the question of privilege. 
Since Mr. Hawksley had refused documents demanded by 
the Committee, was not any member entitled to move that 
he should be brought to the bar of the House ? The Speaker 
rephed that there was no precedent for such a course and 
that the Committee had not urged it. Courtney then asked 
whether there was any precedent for a Committee neglecting 
to make such a demand under such peculiar conditions, and 
whether the House had lost its privilege merely because the 
Committee had failed to do its duty. It looked as if there 
would be no debate ; but Amold-Forster rose to demand 
a full discussion, attacking Rhodes, " who has Ughted a 
brand which will probably flame for another century," and 
condemning the Report. Mr. Balfour angrily rejoined that 
if a debate was desired why did not the Opposition demand 
it ? Harcourt had now no choice but to ask for a day, 


which was promptly gran':ed, and Phihp Stanhope gave 
notice of a resolution regretting the inconclusive action and 
report of the Select Committee and ordering Hawksley to 
attend the House and produce the telegrams. 

The sensational feature of the debate on July 26 was 
Chamberlain's confession that in signing the Report he had 
gone further than he wished in order to secure unanimity, 
and that Rhodes had done nothing inconsistent with his 
personal honour. The cowardice of the Committee was 
fiercely denounced by Labouchere ; but by general consent 
the most impressive utterance was that of Leonard Court- 
ney. After warmly acquitting Chamberlain of any com- 
pUcity in the designs or actions of Jameson or Rhodes,^ he 
denoimced the Committee for its failure to make his 
innocence clear beyond cavil. Rhodes had deceived every 
one from first to last, and was indeed steeped in deceit. He 
was still open to a prosecution both in England and South 
Africa ; but there were also duties for the Government and 
the House to perform. "It is necessary that we should 
clear ourselves absolutely of the past. If you wish to 
establish the reputation of this country, if you wish to make 
unsulUed the honour of our statesmen, you ought to shew 
that in the^ judgemefit of this House and of this nation it 
is not to be tolerated that his name should remain on the 
Privy Council." The second task was to summon Mr. 
Hawksley to the bar and compel the production of the 
missing telegrams. " We can then face the world with the 
consciousness that no ground of suspicion has remained 
unexplored and no attack has been made which has not 
met with exposure. I maintain my fuU conviction of the 
innocence of the Colonial Secretary ; but I am bound to 
say that his own acts and the action of the Committee 
were calculated to encourage the suspicion of those who 
have not the knowledge of his character that we possess. 
Surely a great error in judgement has been committed. It 
may be that this Resolution wiU be defeated by a large 
majority (Ministerial cheers). That wiU not affect the 

^ George Wyndham told Wilfrid Blunt that Chamberlain was " in 
with Jameson and Rhodes " in regard to the Raid. — Blunt, Diaries, i. 279. 


judgement of posterity (Opposition cheers). Nor will it 
affect my judgement (ironical cheers). Nor wiU it affect 
the judgement of millions of your fellow-countrymen here 
(Opposition cheers). Nor wiU it affect the judgement of 
those foreigners abroad (Ministerial laughter) of whom the 
Chancellor of the Exchequer speaks with British contempt. 
If one has the pain of isolation, one may at least have 
something of its reward and freedom. I for my part shall 
have no hesitation, whatever the numbers against me, in 
going into the Lobby in support of the motion " (Oppo- 
sition cheers and Ministerial ironical laughter). The motion 
was lost by 304 to ']'] and Courtney's advice was rejected ; 
but a bad day's work had been done for the fame of the 
British Empire and for the peace of South Africa. 


I sat in Mrs. GuUy's gallery, and a very exciting evening it 
was. She had labelled the seats so that wives whose husbands 
were making strong speeches against each other should not sit 
together. I was between Mrs. Asquith and Mrs. Labouchere. 
The former was loud in praise of L., and Lady Frances Balfour 
spoke of it as his greatest effort this session. Anyhow it simply 
infuriated Chamberlain, who made a very clever and biting speech, 
turning almost entirely to L. and hissing out his words at him 
almost like a snake. And yet I thought L. rather unnecessarily 
proclaimed his conviction of his entire innocence. I neither 
beheve nor disbelieve. 

The power and sincerity of the speech impressed even 
those who disagreed with his Une of argument. 

From Sir James Knowles 

August 4. — I cannot be writing to you and not say what I 
have been saying everywhere. It was the first speech I have 
heard for many years in the House of Commons. It did me good 
to hear it, as shewing that real and passionate oratory is not after 
all extinct there as, since the great speeches of Gladstone, I had 
come to think. And what I felt others felt also, e.g. Austen 
Chamberlain. Neither he nor I shared your point of view ; but 
that had nothing to do with our delighted admiration. 


At the close of the session Courtney set off for a second 
sojourn in Pagenstecher's Klinik ; and early in September 
he was informed that nothing more could be done for him. 
There was no danger of the sight growing worse, and with 
time it might possibly improve. He was rewarded for his 
internment at Wiesbaden by one of the most interesting 
hohdays of his hfe. TravelUng by Vienna, where he saw 
Goluchowski, the Foreign Minister, and Lavino, the cele- 
brated correspondent of the Times, he took ship at Trieste 
for Patras, among his fellow-passengers being Count Burian, 
the newly-appointed Minister to Greece. At Athens he 
entrusted himself to the keeping of his friend Sir Edwin 
Egerton, the British Minister. His first visit was to the 
King, who was residing at his country home at Tatoi. The 
war was over, but the defeated country was stiU rocking 
on its foundations. 

Journal (dictated) 

He spoke fluently in good familiar English, wrong accents 
shewing that he was a foreigner but rarely at a loss for a word. 
" You have come at a very grave time," he began ; and for some 
time he allowed no opportunity of interjecting an observation, 
so full was he of the situation. It was rather a monotonous 
complaint that the Greeks had no friends. Everybody else had 
had friends and protectors — Bulgarians, Serbians, Turks. Even 
in Crete nothing was done, though everything had been promised. 
During the thirty odd years of his reign there had been almost 
annually disturbances in Crete, and Greece always suffered. Now 
they were overwhelmed with Thessalian refugees. The burden 
was terrible. They had never been consulted about the negotia- 
tions, and he did not know whether the Assembly would accept 
the treaty. He shewed great feeling against Germany and said 
it was all very well giving way to her ; but that might produce 
constantly increasing demands and a worse situation in the long 
run. I spoke soothingly of the popular feeling in England and 
expressed my belief that there was also much S5mipathy in France, 
though she had unhappily got lost in the alliance. He repUed 
that Hanotaux had threatened that even Crete could not be free. 
I said that if the Powers went back in respect of Crete they would 
be dishonoured, and I told him that I had spoken myself on the 
duty of insisting on Cretan independence. He said he had told 
Dilke all his views in Paris last year, and expressed a high opinion 


of his knowledge and experience. I said it was a loss that he 
could not be in a responsible position. The conversation then 
reverted to more ordinary matters, such as his vineyards. At 
last I said. Your Majesty is giving me a good deal of your time. 
Presently he rose. Passing a bookshelf in the corridor he put his 
hand upon a volume and said, " Here is Dilke's book." I 
ventured to ask whether he saw the Nineteenth Century. He 
said he had it regularly. I said the last number had an article 
of mine. " I shall read it with more interest after seeing you," 
he repUed ; and so with mutual thanks we parted. 

A day or two later the traveller visited Skoloudis, the 
Foreign Minister, who remarked that they were all very 
grateful for what he had said and done on behalf of Greece. 
" I was a little surprised, and answered that I had said 
little and done less, to which he replied it had all been 
observed and welcomed. He thought the Balkan question 
could be settled if an honest broker intervened. If such an 
arbiter went to the different States and found out the 
pretensions of each he might make a distribution which 
would be accepted by aU. Mr. Gladstone had once thrown 
out the idea of a Balkan Confederation, and he thought it 
might be accomplished. I repUed that in my opinion the 
Cretan question should be severed absolutely from the 
Balkan, and that I was prepared as the price of hberating 
Crete to concur in action preventing for some time at least 
any movement in the Balkans. He assented, saying that 
the Balkan solution he was thinking of might be a matter 
of ten or twenty years." His next visit was to Ralli, who 
had taken office in order to make peace. The Prime Minister, 
who impressed him as a clear-sighted and energetic man, 
complained of the terrible treaty. " How Great Britain 
could have assented to and indeed suggested the Control 
was inexplicable. I observed that it might be a light or a 
heavy matter. If the required payments were pimctually 
made, it would practically do nothing. He said,' No ! No ! 
the Control has a right to participation in all excess values ; 
consequently whether revenues can be increased or expenses 
cut down are matters for it, and the leading voice wiU come 
from Germany. One or two Powers have already intimated 


a doubt whether they would send representatives. England 
is comparatively indifferent. Such constant and pervading 
interference will be worse than the occupation of Thessaly," 
On the following day the Chamber met to discuss the treaty, 
and the British PhUhellene watched the proceedings from 
the Diplomatic tribune, with the Legation interpreter at 
his elbow. The Chamber was quiet and orderly, but after 
his departure Delyannis carried a vote of no confidence in 
his successors, and Zaimis was at once installed in office. 
He had formed a pleasant impression of the Greeks, and 
carried home a deeper knowledge of Greek poUtics than 
Lord Salisbury himself possessed. 

On his return he delivered an address to his constituents, 
warmly defending the cause of Greece. " I found in Athens 
a sober people, grave, self-restrained, though discouraged 
and cured of any flightiness. I attended the National 
Assembly, which had to consider the terms of peace agreed 
upon by the Powers, and I never saw a more business-like 
or orderly body." It was said they deserved their fate. 
He, at any rate, should not condemn them, for they saw 
their brothers across a few miles of sea subject to the tyranny 
from which they had escaped. The Cretan question was 
but part of the great drama of the Near East. Though it 
might not be free to-morrow, the day of its Hberation could 
not be delayed. Lord SaUsbury ought to have plainly told 
the other Powers that the island was ripe for freedom and 
asked them to join in informing the Sultan of their decision. 
The invitation might have been rejected, and he did not 
blame the Prime Minister, who had secured complete 
autonomy, and had saved Greece from the loss of territory. 
The Greeks had been defeated by the Turkish armies, but 
they had won liberty for their brothers by their magnificent 

From Herbert Paul 

October 29, 1897. — I cannot resist the pleasure of expressing 
my hearty admiration for your noble speech at Torpoint. Nothing 
has disgusted me more in the whole of this latest phase of the 
eternal Eastern Question than the new, and what used to be 
considered un-English, habit of kicking people when they are 


down. Your splendid vindication of the Greeks will be read all 
over Europe, and will do something to redeem the honour of 
British statesmanship. I only wish the leaders of our own party 
had spoken out ^\ith equal wisdom and courage. 

Courtney's independent speeches on Education and 
South Africa, Egypt and Greece, made his political position 
a theme of lively discussion in the Press. Unionists natur- 
ally resented the activities of the candid friend. "If he 
would only rejoin the Radicals," sneered Colonel Saunderson, 
" I should always be sure of meeting him in the Unionist 
lobby." The Daily Mail, in one of its Letters to Leaders, 
called him an umpire who always gave his own side out. 
The Liberal Press, not less naturally, was loud in his praises. 
" When Mr. Samuel Whitbread retired," wrote the Echo 
in a character sketch, " his place as the vir pietate gravis of 
the House was at once taken by Leonard Courtney. He 
has become its most useful member." The Daily Chronicle, 
then at the zenith of its influence under the guidance of 
Mr. Massingham, issued something like a formal invitation 
to rejoin his old comrades. " We gain more from him of 
solid reasoning, ample information and a certain large and 
luminous view than from any other public man. One might 
say of him what Gladstone said of MiU, that he is the con- 
science of the House of Commons. We know of no one 
who so adequately fills the position in public Ufe formerly 
occupied by Mill. He is always determined to look all 
round every question, and he will not be put off by claptrap 
or rhetoric, by class or even national bias. If occasionally 
he conveys the impression of lecturing the House or being 
righteous overmuch, that is a pardonable attitude for a 
trained intellect and a resolute character. He cannot be 
altogether happy with his present associates. He is Liberal 
in every fibre of his moral being. We could not name any 
pubHc man on the Liberal side, unless it be Mr. Morley, who 
is a better representative of all that Liberalism means and 
has meant to the world. Will he not join the Liberal 
party ? " The growing severance from the Coalition was 
felt no less in Cheyne Walk than in Fleet Street. " Unless 
Gerald Balfour's forthcoming Irish Local Government Bill 


pulls him into work with the Unionist party," wrote his 
wife in her Journal, " it seems to me he must get more 
separated. However, the only thing is to take every event 
as it comes." 

The Irish Bill of i8g8, which Courtney had demanded 
for nearly twenty years, contained no provision for pro- 
portional representation, but in aU other respects it secured 
his approval and active support. An amendment to the 
Address demanding a Catholic University provided a fresh 
opportunity for displaying his sympathy with every Irish 
demand save Home Rule. He had hoped that Trinity 
College would be frequented by Catholics after Fawcett's 
Bill had thrown it completely open in 1873; but he had 
been disappointed. He regretted equally that the Queen's 
Colleges had been condemned by the Church. He was still 
a friend of undenominational education ; but he was ready 
to support a University for Catholics in which non-CathoUcs 
were permitted to study, to win prizes or to sit on the 
governing body. Such a scheme, he believed, could be 
carried. It was sound advice ; and in solving the problem 
more than twenty years later Mr. Birrell followed the course 
he had marked out. While, however, he recognised the 
justice of the claim to a University which Catholics could 
frequent with the fuU approval of the Church, he declined 
to accept the verdict of the Childers Commission that 
Ireland was overtaxed, bluntly remarking that the excessive 
consumption of spirits, to which the apparent injustice was 
due, was entirely her own choice. 

While the legislative harvest of the session of 1898 
secured his approval, Courtney was fiUed with apprehension 
by the thunder-clouds gathering in different parts of the 
world, and by the growth of an ugly temper in the British 
Isles, A storm of anger broke out when Russia seized Port 
Arthur, and Lord Salisbury was fiercely denounced in the 
Press for taking no steps to restrain Russian aggression. 
Though condemning the annexation of Wei-hai-Wei, 
Courtney as usual defended the Prime Minister against his 
mutinous pack ; but he argued that the solution of the 
Far Eastern question was to be found not in land-grabbing, 

2 A 


but in an international compact for free trade and the open 
door — a policy of wisdom soon to be proclaimed from the 
housetops by Secretary Hay. What might have happened 
had Port Arthur been in the sphere of the Colonial Office 
was too terrible to contemplate. Though the danger of 
war with Russia was averted by the self-control of the 
Prime Minister, who was also Foreign Secretary, colonial 
expansion in Africa had led to continued friction with 
France, and in the spring of 1898 a crisis seemed to be at 


March. — Everywhere one hears talk of war. Mr. C. is a 
terrible man for Colonial Secretary just now. " Pushful Joe," 
as the Westminster calls him. Some weeks ago he sent the press 
and the public into excitement over the West African hinterland, 
reading some telegrams in theatrical style the last thing one 
evening in the House. And I fear he has captured a good section 
of the press. Lord Salisbury' calmed us all down by a pretty 
straight denial of tension with France ; but the general feeling 
does not stamp on this folly, and a good many of the Liberal 
papers and members carp at all concessions. Those who do see 
the other side of the picture are fearful of precipitating what 
they dread by words which may deceive France as to the feeling 
of the Government and perhaps the nation. John Morley came 
to consult L. before speaking at Leicester, which he did strongly 
and very wisely. 

Courtney uttered a vigorous protest against the rising 
tide of jingoism in addressing his constituents during the 
Easter recess. " I believe there is no danger of war with 
Russia," he began ; " but there has been real danger of 
war with France. Complaints have been made of late that 
she has been unfriendly in Siam, Tunis, Madagascar, New- 
foundland, and elsewhere, and people complain that Lord 
SaUsbury is too yielding to her. I have a very high opinion 
of him. He has a large spirit, equable temper and great 
experience, and nobody could replace him. Serious men 
in London have been occupied with the thought that we 
may find ourselves at war about the west coast of Africa. 
France and ourselves may without boasting say we are the 


most prominent civilised nations of the world, though 
perhaps the United States shows greater promise for the 
future. Would it not be a terrible scandal if we should find 
ourselves at war unless there is some really substantial 
ground of complaint ? Sierra Leone is a death-trap and 
the trade of West Africa is a trifle. As the result of the 
scramble for Africa the doctrine of Hinterland has arisen 
and the frontiers have got mixed up. A Commission has 
been sitting in Paris, and has made progress ; but there is a 
danger lest some energetic agent on the spot should start a 
conflagration. If the Commission fails to agree, why not 
submit the disputed issue to arbitration ? " 

While British and French Hotspurs were spitting fire at 
each other, war broke out between Spain and the United 
States, When the Maine was destroyed in the harbour of 
Havana, Courtney was invited to state his views in the 
Daily Chronicle, and vainly attempted to pour oil on the 
raging waters. There was absolutely no reason for war, 
he pointed out ; for Spain had changed her Ministry, and 
had promised autonomy to Cuba. He did not for a moment 
believe that the Maine had been blown up, and the cause 
of the occurrence should be impartially determined. Similar 
appeals to reason were made by eminent American citizens 
of the type of Charles Eliot Norton ; but the fate of the 
Maine set the passions of the Republic ablaze. The conflict 
was soon over, and at the end of August he was pressed by 
an American journal {The Independent) to express his opinion 
on the result. In impressive tones he warns his trans- 
atlantic readers against the foundation of an overseas 
Empire and the allurements of Imperialism. " I recognise 
the sympathy which called for the use of force to end mis- 
government in Cuba. But if the United States are in no 
danger of attack and contemplate war only as the fulfilment 
of the obligation of the strong to succour the weak, nothing 
which has occurred during the last six months should pro- 
voke men to depart from the standing policy of the Repubhc. 
The conquest of the Philippines leads people to say that 
something must be kept for the sake of American commerce 
in the Pacific. The crusading spirit has vanished, and the 


Imperialist has taken the place of the Liberator. There is 
no need of overseas territory for an overflowing population. 
' The pity on't ' is the final feeling of a friendly Englishman 
musing over the possible outcome of the Cuban War. But 
I do not yet abandon hope of a renunciation of the greed of 
conquest, making the Republic an example of self-restraint." 
Among the crowding events of the summer of 1898 was 
the Tsar's Rescript on disarmament, issued while Courtney 
was holiday-making in the Tirol. His first speech to his 
constituents after his return was devoted to a warm welcome 
to the proposal which had arrested the attention of the 
world. " The secret if not the spoken question of many men 
is. Who can believe in the sincerity of the Tsar ? Can any- 
thing good come out of Russia ? I have no difficulty in 
accepting his action as sincere. Alexander I. conceived the 
idea of establishing among the monarchs of Europe the 
bonds of perpetual peace. Alexander II. emancipated the 
serfs. Alexander III. kept the peace unbroken. Any one 
who detects mere selfishness, a mere attempt to overreach 
other nations in the act of Nicholas II. is blind. Whether 
practicable or illusory, it is a noble and worthy proposal. 
But is it practicable ? The answer depends mainly on 
ourselves. The conception lacks completeness ; for it is 
impossible to build peace and disarmament on a status quo 
which involves so many injustices. A general agreement is 
unHkely ; but agreement for the reduction of armaments 
and for recourse to arbitration between two, three or more 
States would be a useful beginning. The limitation of 
arbitrary action is the essence of the task to which the Tsar 
summons us. Let us not be content to meet it with a burst 
of admiration to-day and then to-morrow resort to arms 
instead of to law in the first quarrel in which we are in- 
volved." The speech was one of the first welcoming 
utterances in England ; and when Stead showed it to the 
Tsar ten days later at Livadia, he was met with the reply, 
" I read it to my wife last night." Though joining in the 
solemn protest against Russian encroachments on the 
constitutional liberties of Finland, Courtney actively co- 
operated in the educational campaign, organised by the 


indefatigable editor of the Review of Reviews. He took 
Mr. Morley's place as principal speaker at a great demonstra- 
tion at Queen's Hall in the spring of 1899, and an article 
in the May number of the Contemporary Review offered some 
practical advice to the Conference. The Umitation of 
armaments, he argued, was useless when imposed by force, 
as on Prussia after Jena and on Russia after the Crimean 
War, but of enduring value when freely accepted by both 
parties, as in the neutralisation of the frontier between 
Canada and the United States. He was more hopeful of 
the revival of Lord Clarendon's suggestion to the Powers 
assembled at Paris in 1856 that in the event of a dispute 
the other Powers should be invited to mediate before 
hostilities were begun. Such a covenant would almost 
certainly have prevented the Spanish-American War of 
1898, if not the Franco-German War of 1870, " We cannot 
go to the Hague in a sanguine spirit ; but we shall escape 
the responsibilities of failure if we work for its success in 
singleness of spirit." 

A far more urgent issue was raised When Kitchener, 
fresh from his overwhelming victory at Omdurman, marched 
south and found the French flag flying at Fashoda. The 
West African crisis of the spring had been amicably settled ; 
but the struggle for the valley of the Nile was of old standing 
and was embittered for France by the memory of lost 
opportunities and defeat. In despatching the Marchand 
mission from West Africa the French Government had 
taken a very grave step ; for Sir Edward Grey's warning of 
1895 had been more than once repeated by Lord Salisbury, 
and the advance to Dongola in 1896 suggested that there 
would be no halting till the whole of the Sudan was re- 
covered. France had therefore no ground for surprise 
when the Major was politely but firmly requested by the 
British General to haul down his flag. 

During the days of breathless suspense when the French 
Cabinet was deciding whether to submit or to fight, Courtney 
discussed the situation with his constituents at Bodmin. 
He began by reiterating his disapproval of the reconquest 
of the Sudan. To obtain and retain those " worthless and 


worse than worthless provinces " was to the interest neither 
of Egypt nor of England. The enterprise had proved less 
difficult than he had expected ; but the cheap price of mihtary 
success had nothing to do with the wisdom or unwisdom of 
the poUcy. The issue of the moment, however, was not the 
reconquest of the Sudan but the danger of war with France. 
He was a lover of France ; but in the last two years she had 
caused him a good deal of anxiety. Much had happened 
that inspired regret, and the Drej^us case had shown that 
the military element was far too powerful. In the present 
controversy England was in the right, and we could fairly 
claim that Major Marchand should lower his flag and that 
Fashoda should not be French territory. We should, how- 
ever, put ourselves in the wrong if we were to expel him by 
force without listening to argument. France maintained 
that the Sudan belonged to the Khedive, and that in claim- 
ing the whole valley of the Nile Great Britain was usurping 
his powers. Our action had been hke that of a man who 
erects a board in a field with the notice. Trespassers will be 
prosecuted. But that is merely a claim to ownership, 
which, if disputed, must be settled in court. He hoped and 
beheved that France would yield ; but if she refused to 
evacuate Fashoda, every means of peaceful settlement must 
be exhausted before recourse was had to arms. " My last 
word is a protest against the assumption that there is no 
other method of settling the difference than by compelling 
her to give way by superior force." Fortunately Delcasse 
had recently been installed in the Quai d'Orsay, and the 
French Cabinet wisely decided to withdraw from the Nile 
Valley and to look for compensations elsewhere. Courtney's 
plea for sanity was read with profound gratitude by moderate 
men in France, among them a friend whose mastery of the 
Enghsh language no less than of EngHsh hterature made 
him a natural mediator between the two countries in 
moments of excitement. 

From J. Jusserand 

November 8, 1898. — I found on coming home after a short and 
only too needed time of rest the paper you kindly sent me. I 


read with the deepest sympathy the most sensible and true speech 
that was pronounced on that very sad question ; a speech not 
the less manly because it was human. You said the absolute 
truth, and I think that if ever there was a question for discussion 
this was the one. It seems unbelievable that one of the two 
interested countries shows herself bent upon war and makes even 
now all preparations for it, when it is remembered that the 
territory in question belonged altogether for some ten years to 
Egypt, that it has been given up fifteen years ago, and that, when 
it was part of Egypt, that country was under an Anglo-French 
condominium. Is it not strange that the affair has been practi- 
cally managed not at all as it seems by Government but by 
a " yellow press " which was supposed to exist only in other 
countries, and at a time when there are Cecils left ? I hope your 
wise and just appreciation of the case will not soon be forgotten, 
and I, for one, will ever gratefully remember it. Best compli- 
ments to Mrs. Courtney from us both. 

Neither the victory of Omdurman nor the pacific solution 
of the Fashoda crisis modified Courtney's view ; and when 
Mr. Morley discussed the policy at the opening of the session 
of 1899 he was supported by his brother-in-arms. The 
conquest of the Sudan, he declared, was to be condemned 
in the interests both of England and of Egypt. Our arm 
would be weakened by locking up part of our forces and by 
the embitterment of the standing feud with France. It 
was quite untrue to declare that the control of the whole 
course of the Nile was necessary to our hold on Egypt ; for 
Eg3^t and the Sudan had seldom belonged to the same 
ruler, and Egypt's southern frontier was defended by the 
desert. The critics were supported with voice and vote 
by Campbell-Bannerman, who succeeded Harcourt as the 
Liberal leader shortly before Christmas, and opposed with 
vote and voice by Sir Edward Grey. The division was 
prophetic of the struggle for the soul of the Liberal party 
which was to break out before the New Year had closed. 

Courtney's deep conviction that tropical territories were 
more trouble than they were worth was illustrated in his 
Presidential Address to the Royal Statistical Society, de- 
livered on December 13. " An Experiment on Commercial 
Expansion " dealt with the Belgian attempt to open up new 


markets. Merely glancing at the inhumanities of the white 
men, the story of which was at that time not fully known, 
he reviews the situation from the neutral standpoint of an 
economist, and presents a balance-sheet of deficits and dis- 
appointment. " The result is sadly disproportionate to the 
anticipations of the enterprise. The value of the outlet 
for commerce is no more significant than the value of the 
outlet for men. A greater, more certain, more durable 
change would have been effected had missionaries, Catholic 
and Protestant, Belgian, English and American, been 
allowed to pursue their labours in peace. King Leopold 
would not be at the head of a region equal to Western 
Europe ; but a score of Livingstones, if such a number could 
be obtained, would effect a more enduring triumph." 

The session of 1899 opened quietly with the introduction 
of the London Government Bill by Mr. Balfour, creating 
boroughs with a Mayor, Aldermen and Councillors, and 
entrusting to them the duties performed by the Vestries 
and other minor boards. The Chairman of the Unification 
Committee naturally regretted that the City remained un- 
touched ; but he blessed the measure on its Second Reading 
as a valuable instalment. In Committee his main efforts 
were directed to championing the rights of women to share 
in the burdens and privileges of local administration. A 
motion excluding women from the position of Alderman 
and Mayor was carried by 155 to 124 ; but on Report he 
carried their claim to be Aldermen and Councillors by 196 
to 161. Though Lord Salisbury for once supported the 
cause of progress, the Lords struck out the amendment. 
When the measure returned to the House of Commons 
Courtney proposed that women should be eligible as Coun- 
cillors though not as Aldermen ; but this compromise was 
opposed by the Government and defeated. 

The most notable domestic debate of the session arose on 
the Budget, which partially suspended the Sinking Fund 
on the ground that Consols could only be redeemed at an 
extravagant price. A damaging attack came from Harcourt, 
who, though he had resigned the leadership of his party, 
spoke with the authority of an ex - Chancellor of the 


Exchequer. But the most impressive feature of the dis- 
cussion was Courtney's grave appeal to the House to regard 
the action of the Government in large perspective. A 
technical analysis of the Budget was followed by a philo- 
sophic survey of the industrial and political situation. We 
had narrowly escaped a great war in the previous year, and 
the world was full of rivalry and bitterness. Nothing but 
war could justify an arrest of the reduction of debt, and a 
steady diminution of our burden was the best financial 
preparation for a possible conflict. But even if perpetual 
peace were assured, he should oppose the raid on the Sinking 
Fund. Our commercial superiority was coming to an end, 
for the United States, with their unlimited supplies of raw 
materials and their teeming population, were passing us in 
the race. Jevons's forecast of the approaching exhaustion 
of our coal, which he had chosen for the theme of his Presi- 
dential Address to the Statistical Society in 1897, was being 
confirmed by experience ; and his advice to prepare for the 
years of increasing strain by paying off debt was as sound 
in 1899 as in 1866. "If we entertain apprehensions in 
regard to the struggle for industrial supremacy, now is the 
time — when we are most prosperous and have abundant 
occupation for our people — to prepare for the future by 
removing the impediments which may hinder us in the 
struggle for Ufe." The House, we are told, hstened spell- 
bound to the warning ; but its receptive moods are always 
transient, and the suspension of the Sinking Fund was 
carried by the normal majority. A few weeks later the 
skies darkened rapidly, and the prophecies of Cassandra 
were recalled by some who had paid little heed to them on 
a bright afternoon in May. 



Throughout his Parliamentary career Courtney had been 
the most vigilant observer and the most effective critic of 
British poHcy in South Africa. He had protested against 
the annexation of the Transvaal without the consent of its 
inhabitants. He had urged Gladstone to restore its inde- 
pendence without waiting for a rebellion. He had adjured 
the SaHsbury Government to record its disapproval of the 
Raid by excluding Rhodes from the Privy Coimcil. He 
had demanded that the cloud of suspicion should be dis- 
pelled by the production of the Hawksley telegrams. In 
every case his advice was neglected, with disastrous cumula- 
tive results to the peace of the world. Careful steering was 
more than ever needed after the Raid ; but the new pilot 
was ill-fitted by temperament for a situation that required 
not only firmness but patience and tact. Only a few weeks 
after he had given his testimonial to Rhodes as a man of 
honour. Chamberlain hghted another fuse by reviving the 
claim to suzerainty, which was deliberately omitted by 
Lord Derby in the Convention of 1884, and to which no 
appeal was made by British statesmen in the following 
thirteen years. In the light of these facts it was not surpris- 
ing that the Transvaal and Orange Free State should form 
an alliance in 1897, that arms and ammunition should be 
ordered from Europe, and that Kruger should be re-elected 
in 1898 by an overwhelming majority, many Boers voting 
for him as the symbol of national independence who had 
voted for and almost succeeded in electing the progressive 



Joubert in 1893. Krugerism was dying when the Raid 
gave it a new lease of Ufe. 

Since the discovery of gold in 1886 Transvaal politics 
had revolved in a vicious circle. An army of speculators 
and miners swarmed into the midst of a conservative farm- 
ing community, and a great cosmopolitan city arose within 
forty miles of Pretoria. Fearing that the immigrants would 
swamp the hardly won national hfe of the Boers through 
sheer weight of numbers, the President excluded the new- 
comers, whom he regarded as mere birds of passage, from 
any share in the poHtical control of the country. Had the 
Government been reasonably efficient, the anomaly might 
have been tolerated ; but the regime was corrupt as well as 
reactionary. In 1894 Lord Loch, the High Commissioner, 
visited Pretoria and informed the President that he must 
make concessions. The warning was unheeded, and the 
Raid was the result. Kruger's suspicions of British designs 
on the independence of the Transvaal having in turn 
hardened into certainty, he was more determined than ever 
to keep the immigrants from setting foot within the citadel 
of power. Meanwhile the resentment of the Outlanders 
grew into hot anger, and in Sir Alfred Milner, who succeeded 
Lord Rosmead as High Commissioner in 1897, they found a 
far more powerful champion than Jameson or Rhodes. 
The " helots " drew up a monster petition to the British 
Government for the redress of their grievances, and the 
Cabinet, after full deHberation, resolved to adopt and press 
their claims. Sir Alfred Milner returned to his post early 
in 1899, empowered to demand a five years' franchise for 
the Outlanders ; and Kruger accepted an invitation to 
discuss the situation with him at Bloemfontein. The plan 
was excellent in theory ; but the two men belonged to 
different centuries, and each was deeply suspicious of the 
other's good faith. Kruger refused a five years' franchise, 
offering a seven years' franchise which was in turn declined 
by the High Commissioner. The Government was now 
urged by many of its supporters to take strong action, and 
on July 7 it announced that such preparations were being 
made. Offers of colonial help were promptly received. 

364 Life of lord courtney chap. 

though the Government of Cape Colony announced that m 
its opinion no ground existed for active intervention. Ten 
days later the Transvaal Raad passed a Seven Years' 
Franchise Bill. 

It was at this moment that the Colonial Estimates pro- 
vided the opportunity for a full-dress discussion of the 
South African problem. The debate was opened by 
Campbell-Bannerman in a highly pacific speech. Passions, 
he complained, were being worked up by the press both in 
South Africa and at home. " The writers almost induce 
me to believe that they regard reason and moderation as a 
crime, and look upon an appeal to force as something in 
itself desirable. But any appeal to them is, of course, in 
vain." The need of the moment was moderation in word 
and deed. He could sympathise with Boer reluctance to 
have their State turned upside down, and he could fully 
understand the suspicion with which they viewed the 
operations of the Uitlanders and their champions. " We 
have almost forgotten the deplorable Raid. We wish to 
forget it, and therefore we do forget it ; but if I were a Boer, 
I should not forget it." Our minds were filled with the un- 
doubted grievances of the Outlanders, theirs with appre- 
hension as to the independence of their country. Threats 
would never overcome their reluctance to meet our demands. 
He could see nothing whatever which furnished a case for 
armed intervention, or even for a threat of war. The 
obvious line of advance was to employ the good offices of 
mediators hke Hofmeyr and Schreiner, who had already 
secured concessions and would secure more. The Liberal 
leader was followed by the Colonial Secretary, who defended 
his pohcy in a powerful and moderate speech. The Out- 
landers, he reminded the House, formed a majority in the 
Transvaal and contributed nine-tenths of the taxation ; but 
they had no political rights. A far larger question, however, 
was involved than the franchise. "It is not a matter of 
two years' difference in the quaHfication of the vote. It is 
the power and authority of the British Empire — our position 
as the predominant Power in South Africa. We have taken 
up the cause and are bound to see it through. I am, how- 


ever, hopeful of a peaceful solution, for I think President 
Kruger has come to the conclusion that the Government 
are in earnest." In view of the subsequent cry that the 
Dutch of South Africa had long been engaged in a gigantic 
conspiracy to haul down the British flag, it is interesting 
to notice that the Colonial Secretary was unaware of 
any such movement, and that he expressly stated that 
there was no race antagonism in the Free State or the 

The third important speech of the debate was that of 
Courtney, who began by expressing his satisfaction that 
Chamberlain had proposed an inquiry into the Seven Years' 
Franchise, and his hope that Kruger would accept it.^ But 
an atmosphere of confidence was necessary. " I do not 
think he meant to use the language of threat, and indeed 
he disclaimed such an intention, but his words will be so 
interpreted. And when we read week after week of the 
demonstrations at the departure of troops for the Cape, 
when we receive almost day by day the announcements of 
offers of military aid from the colonies, when we hear that 
the Government of India could spare 10,000 troops for a 
campaign in the Transvaal — will not these things be viewed 
in South Africa as a menace ? " The Minister argued that 
Kruger had made it his policy to put the British residents 
under the heel of a Dutch ohgarchy ; but he had not gone 
back far enough. In the Great Trek the Dutch farmers 
had moved out into the wilderness to enjoy freedom under 
their own flag ; but when they reached Natal we landed 
troops at Durban and headed them off. Then after a 
precarious fight for existence we recognised the independence 
of the two Repubhcs in 1852 and 1854. A quarter of a 
century later we annexed the Transvaal, and only partially 
restored their independence when they had defeated us. 
" One knows how many men there are in the army who 
long to wipe out Majuba Hill. Military men constantly 
speak about it, and you may see their faces light up at the 

^ He pressed the same advice on Montagu White, Consul-General of 
the Transvaal in London. See the latter's telegram of Aug. 4 in the 
Times History of the War in S. Africa, i. 310. 


expectation. That was an old source of trouble ; but a 
new one has been recently created. I must protest against 
the Colonial Secretary's constant use of the word suzerainty. 
Lord Derby expressly dropped the word because it was 
ambiguous, and the control of foreign relations, which was 
its most important feature, was specifically provided for. 
If I had any influence with President Kruger, which I have 
not, I should recommend him to refer the legal interpreta- 
tion of the documents governing our relations to the Judicial 
Committee of the Privy Council." The controversy, how- 
ever, turned on broader issues than the interpretation of 
documents. We had the right to remonstrate and to enforce 
our remonstrance against unjust treatment of British 
subjects in the Transvaal or anywhere else. It was only a 
question of the vahdity of the grounds. The shooting of 
Edgar by a Boer policeman in Johannesburg was put for- 
ward by the Colonial Secretary as evidence of the failure of 
justice ; but the case had been fairly tried and the pohce- 
man rightfully acquitted. The Government were quite 
right to demand the franchise, which was the key of the 
position ; but the difference between seven and five years 
was not and could not be a sufficient ground for talking of 
war, much less a casus belli, as many Unionist members 
privately admitted. Such a pretext would be impossible 
to justify in the face of the world. " I am taking the same 
stand to-day that I took in 1877 when, as a new Member, 
I raised my voice against an unwise annexation of the 
Transvaal. Then as now I pleaded for forbearance and 

The whole world now watched with bated breath the 
last stages of the attempt to solve by discussion the relations 
between a cosmopoUtan mining camp and a backward 
community of Dutch farmers. On August 18 the Transvaal, 
without refusing an inquiry into the Seven Years' law, 
offered a five years' franchise on condition that Great 
Britain promised to abstain from future interference in the 
internal affairs of the Republic, to drop the recently revived 
claim to suzerainty, and to refer all future disputes to 
arbitration. On August 28 Chamberlain answered that 


Great Britain could not divest herself of her rights under 
the Conventions and declined to surrender the claim to 
suzerainty. His reply was generally understood both at 
home and in South Africa as a refusal ; and this interpreta- 
tion was confirmed by a speech delivered almost at the 
same moment to his constituents at a garden-party, in 
which he compared Kruger to a squeezed sponge and warned 
him that the sands were running out. The Highbury 
oration seemed to bring war within sight, and its menacing 
tones filled the friends of peace with something Hke despair. 
Towards the end of August Mr. Amery was despatched 
by the Times to South Africa, and asked his old chief 
for introductions to Mr. Rose-Innes, Mr. Schreiner, " and 
perhaps also to Mr. Kruger himself." 

To President Kruger 

August 23, 1899. 

Dear President Kruger — For the first time in my life I 
write to you and I fear my object must at first appear strange ; 
but we met at dinner at Lord Derby's in 1884 and I know that 
you have since been now and then reminded of my name. On 
the strength of these memories I ask you to permit my present 
action. I wish to present to you Mr. Amery, who is going out to 
South Africa as a special commissioner of the Times. That 
newspaper has taken a line I most strongly condemn and you 
can scarcely pardon ; but the fact that the conductors of it are 
sending out Mr. Amery is I think a sign that they wish to put 
themselves on better lines where they have been most grievously 
wrong. Mr. Amery came to me two years ago as private 
secretary, and he proved a most valuable assistant with an extent 
of knowledge rare in so young a man and most open-minded in 
his judgment. The Times sent him twelve months ago on a 
mission to South-East Europe which he well discharged, and 
they are now sending him out to South Africa where I hope he 
will do still more valuable work. If you will allow him to see 
you I think you may find through him means of influencing the 
judgment of the Times, which forms the judgment of so many 
others, towards a better understanding of the rights and wrongs 
of the South African Republic. I hope and pray that by the 
time this reaches you all danger will have passed away. You 
have had a terrible experience, but I can assure you that you 


have had true and deep sympathy from many in England of 
whom I may claim to be one. I remain with the greatest respect 
and apologies for an intrusion which should not be made if I 
did not hope much good from it. 

Courtney's poignant anxieties were shared to the full 
by his most intimate political friend. 

From John Morley 

August 30, 1899. — Most unwilHngly do I break my silence, 
but I cannot stand the compulsion of my conscience any longer, 
and I have arranged to speak in my own constituency on Tuesday, 
if all be well. More important gatherings ought to follow. I 
only trouble you now to ask you to say if there is any special point 
which in your view ought to be pressed just now. It is not easy 
(nor is it very safe) to find an eirenicon which our own public 
might be induced to consider. General reproaches against the 
Government are not quite enough. The situation is so kaleido- 
scopic in its changes that a speaker has many perils to face. 

To John Morley 

September i. — I am very glad you are going to speak. The 
situation is extremely bad and Chamberlain almost makes me 
despair. I fear I cannot help you much. Barnett (of Toynbee) 
wrote me from Bristol on Monday.^ He had seen Lord Hobhouse 
and had asked him whether nothing could be done. He had 
nothing to say except some despairing talk about education 
for the future, but thought he might sign anything I could write, 
so I dictated a paper (copy enclosed). It is very bald and no 
more than a draft but it brings out the two points, viz. (i) that 
we have no claim to suzerainty beyond the check on foreign 
treaties, (2) that our moral claim, such as it is, to interfere is so 
far satisfied by what has been conceded that to fight for more 
is an atrocious crime. Chamberlain, as we know, does not 
conceal his disapproval of the Treaty of 1884, and I beheve he 
would now privately condemn the Convention of 1881. He 
really wants to reduce the Transvaal to a British province and 
to incorporate it in the South African Dominion. This might 
come about in a generation through rational causes if men 

^ The letter is printed in Barnett' s Life, ii 125. 


would wait ; but to attempt to bring it on by force is really to 
push it backwards. If conquest proved near, which I do not 
expect, the result would be a Crown colony held by force and 
disaffection elsewhere. It seems clear the Orange Free State 
would fight with the South African RepubHc if the latter were 
attacked, and Schreiner's talk about holding aloof reveals his 
opinion of the Cape Colony. NeutraHty on the part of the Cape 
would of course be impossible. As for the Transvaal it might 
be possible to have a loyal Rand in a corner like a loyal Ulster ; 
but remember that when the country was annexed in 1877 
self-government was promised, yet nobody could venture to 
take any step in that direction in the three and a half years that 
followed. Forgive this long ineffective letter. My heart will 
be with you on Tuesday and I trust Scotland will respond to you. 

From John Morley 

September 2, 1899. — A thousand thanks for your trouble. 
I think you will find me close on your track. But things look 
a trifle less black to-day, don't they ? From all I hear the feeling 
in the Liberal Party is about as unsatisfactory as can be, either 
horribly timorous or flat jingo. 

Mr. Morley's speech was hailed with profound gratitude 
by the men and women of all parties who had watched the 
performances of the Colonial Secretary with anguish ; and 
the new leader was promptly urged to raise his standard in 
the political capital of the North. 

From John Morley 

September 7, 1899. — The Manchester Transvaal Committee 
is a newly formed body, comprising, I am told, all sorts of 
men. They are hot for a great meeting, and have secured 
St. James's Hall September 15. They wish me to go. I reply 
(i) that I have shot my bolt ; (2) that my physical resources 
are not up to a great meeting ; (3) that, supposing a conference 
to come off, a demonstration would at the moment have no 
particular raison d'etre. They reply : If Courtney will come 
to take the labouring oar, would you come to support Courtney ? 
I decHne to say yes positively and unconditionally, because my 
voice is really in bad order. Apart from persons, what is your 
view of the timeUness ? 



An urgent telegram was despatched the same day by 
Mr. C. P. Scott, a Lancashire Member and Editor of the 
Manchester Guardian ; but Courtney needed no pressing, 
and on September 14 he started from Beachy Head, where 
he was spending the hohdays. " No pubUc meeting held 
in Manchester for many years," writes Lord Morley, " excited 
such interest. The war party had publicly advertised and 
encouraged attempts to smash it, and young men were 
earnestly exhorted in patriotic prints at least for one night 
to sacrifice their bilhards and tobacco for the honour of 
their native land. The huge St. James's Hall was packed 
as it had never been packed before. The Chairman was 
Bright 's eldest son, but not a word was he allowed to utter 
by an audience of between eight and ten thousand people. 
Then my turn came, and for ten minutes I had to face the 
same severe ordeal. At length they allowed me for an 
instant to launch the single indisputable truth in my whole 
budget, namely, that I was a Lancashire man. This taUs- 
man proved my salvation. After an hour of a judicious 
mixture of moderation, breadth, good-temper, with a 
sHghtly guarded Lancastrian undertone of defiance, I sat 
down amid universal enthusiasm. The grand potent 
monosyllable with which I wound up was not to be resisted. 
' You may carry fire and sword into the midst of peace and 
industry : it will be wrong. A war of the strongest Govern- 
ment in the world with untold wealth and inexhaustible 
reserves against this Httle repubhc will bring you no glory : 
it will be wrong. It may add a new province to your 
Empire : it will still be wrong.' Courtney, who was 
only a Comishman, came next, and made up for his 
sadly defective place of origin by a strong dish of sound 
arguments, spiced with the designation of Milner as ' a 
lost mind.' " ^ 

Both speakers were at their best, receiving inspiration 
from their vast audience and combining sustained argument 
with high moral appeal. The situation, began Courtney, 
was critical. An incautious word, an outburst of some 
drunken Boer or some drunken Outlander might so inflame 

^ Recollections, ii. 85-6. 


the already excited temper there and here that the crackle 
of musketry would follow. Now or never was the time to 
appeal to the good sense and good temper of our country- 
men. Had the past taught the Boers to trust us ? Kruger 
himself trekked from Cape Colony at the age of six. After 
twenty-five years of independence the Transvaal was 
annexed, and we dared not grant the self-government we 
promised because we knew that a representative body 
would at once demand the restoration of national Hberties. 
The Convention that followed Majuba asserted our suze- 
rainty, but that of 1884 dropped the word, while retaining 
the control of foreign relations. This control — and this 
alone — was recognised by Kruger, Let the dispute on 
suzerainty be submitted to the Judicial Committee of the 
Privy Council, It was nothing but a quarrel about words, 
and the heart of the trouble was the franchise. The last 
despatch of the Colonial Secretary was a rebuke to the fire- 
eaters of the Press, and most of all to a man " whom I know, 
whom I hold as a friend, whose name I scarcely dare to 
mention, such power has it still over me, but whom I must 
designate as a lost mind, I mean Sir Alfred Milner. I do 
not use that phrase without much hesitation. I do not 
wish to give pain to a man with whom I have lived in 
familiar converse, but there are things which are mightier 
than the susceptibiUties of individuals." Kruger should be 
urged to accept Chamberlain's proposals, but we should try 
to realise the hesitation he would feel. " It is my best hope 
that the two races shall hve side by side again as they did 
before 1877, and as they would again but for this infernal 
taint of the gold mines and the miserable inflammation 
excited by the Press. Could Kruger persuade his Boers to 
yield on suzerainty or the franchise unless they had some 
assurance of fair play ? Let us cease our greed for hes, 
with which too many are trying to glut us. I have come 
here to ask you to cease from devouring this disgusting 
meal. In the Dreyfus case, loving France as I do, my pity, 
my horror have not been for the man who had suffered 
worse torture than death and had been treated hke a wild 
beast — I grieve for France. I implore you that never shaU 


the occasion arise that anybody shall be able to say, I grieve 
for England." 

" Neither of the speeches will ever be forgotten by those 
who heard them," wrote the Manchester Guardian. " Mr. 
Courtney did not mince matters. Lies ! Lies ! Lies ! he 
thundered against. the campaign of calumny pouring daily 
from the Yellow Press to poison the minds of the people 
against the Boers. The great meeting was a triumph." 
" A glorious success," wrote Mrs. Courtney in her Journal. 
" Mr. Morley and L. once more on the same platform." 
Courtney at once returned to the Uttle wind-swept bungalow 
on Beachy Head, whither he was followed by a grateful 
letter from his Manchester host. 

From C. P. Scott 

I have been asked by the Transvaal Committee to express 
to you the strong sense of gratitude which they feel for your- 
presence and speech on Friday night, and I am sure the feeling 
is shared by thousands of people in the city. We owe the holding 
of the meeting to you. We have sent an urgent telegram to 
Campbell-Bannerman to-day begging him to say some word at 
least to secure a breathing-space and prevent the country from 
being hurried into war. But will he ? More and more one feels 
that foreign poUcy is the touchstone of all poUcy. I notice a 
curious feeling among quite ordinary people that last Friday's 
meeting was in a way historic, and I believe it is true. 

Many were the letters received before and after the 
Manchester meeting from men who had been waiting for a 

From Herbert Spencer 

September 13. — I rejoice that you and others are bent on 
shewing that there are some among us who think the national 
honour is not being enhanced by putting down the weak. Would 
that age and ill-health did not prevent me from aiding. No 
one can deny that at the time of the Jameson raid the aim of 
the Outlanders and the raiders was to usurp the Transvaal 
Government. He must be wilfully bUnd who does not see that 
what the Outlanders failed to do by bullets they hope presently 
to do by votes. And only those who, while jealous of their own 


independence, regard but little the independence of people who 
stand in their way can fail to sympathise with the Boers in their 
resistance to political extinction. It is sad to see our Government 
backing those whose avowed pohcy is " expansion," which, 
less pohtely expressed, means aggression, for which there is a 
still less polite word, readily guessed. On behalf of these the 
big British Empire, weapon in hand, growls out to the little Boer 
RepubUc, " Do as I bid you." I have always thought that 
nobleness is shewn in treating tenderly those who are relatively 
feeble, and even sacrificing on their behalf something to which 
there is a just claim ; but if current opinion is right I must have 
been wrong. 

■ Having uttered a public protest against the rising storm 
of passion, Courtney carried his appeal straight to the 
highest court. The best if not the only chance of maintain- 
ing peace lay, he believed, in the temporary supersession 
of the High Commissioner, and in the presentation of the 
British demands by some distinguished public servant whose 
record and personality would arouse no antagonism in the 
bosom of the suspicious old President. 

To Joseph Chamberlain 

September 18, 1899. — The situation this morning is to my 
mind so grave that I am bold to write to you. The answer of 
the Boer Government to your last despatch is not what we 
hoped and desired. The Government may treat it as a final 
refusal. It is, however, intelhgible. If the Transvaal had 
accepted your invitation to a Joint Commission this might have 
been a basis for settlement. I could not understand their 
reply offering instead a five years' franchise on condition 
suzerainty was dropped. It seemed to me you could not be 
expected to accept that condition, and the proposal was inex- 
pUcable. They now say it was made on a misunderstanding. 
They seem to have gathered from Greene that it would be 
acceptable. I cannot suppose he said this, yet as they put them- 
selves from their own point of view in a wrong position by accept- 
ing even conditionally a five years' franchise, they must have 
believed it. The difficulty may be explained by his having 
said, " If you accept five years' franchise, other difficulties will 
disappear — you will hear nothing of them," which they 
understood to include suzerainty, whilst he was only thinking 


of Dynamite, Monopoly, Cape Boys and the like. I do not 
know whether Greene speaks Dutch or communicates through 
an interpreter. Is there no way out but through war ? I fear 
not, unless there can be a change of negotiators, and though 
I feel that Milner has failed, I cannot suppose you would supersede 
him. But what if a new offer came tending to agreement but 
requiring a change to carry it through ? I think I could name 
two men whose temper and knowledge would give great promise 
of success if they could be put to the work. I mean JuHan 
Pauncefote, with his diplomatic experience and temper, and 
Marshall Clarke, with his local knowledge and tact. I am writing 
this without the knowledge of anyone except my wife who is 
also my secretary, and I send it direct to you ; but I confess 
I should be pleased if you did not dismiss it at once without 
letting Lord SaUsbury know what I had written or that his 
opinion might also be brought to bear on the matter. 

From Joseph Chamberlain 

September 19, 1899. — I have, as you requested, shewn your 
letter to Lord Salisbury. You will readily see that I cannot 
discuss the subject in private correspondence, but I may say 
that your meaning is not clear to me. What do you intend by 
" a new offer tending to agreement but requiring a change to 
carry it through " ? Do you mean an offer — presumably satis- 
factory — from the Transvaal Government but accompanied by 
a request for the dismissal of Greene and Milner ? Or do you 
mean an offer from us to the Transvaal with a suggestion that 
they should get rid of Kruger, Leyds and Reitz ? Either would 
be a rather startUng development of the " new diplomacy," 
would they not ? I ought to add that it is impossible that the 
Transvaal Government should have misunderstood Greene as 
they allege. In his account of the interview in the last Blue- 
book he says that he told them that we could not give up our 
claim to suzerainty under the preamble of 1881 Convention. 

To Joseph Chamberlain 

September 20, 1899. — Thanks for your letter. I will explain 
more fuUy what I meant by " a new offer tending to agreement 
but requiring a change to carry it through." It is evident that 
the Transvaal Government are terribly afraid they will be robbed 
of their independence. If they could be assured on this point 
they would risk many things. They might therefore be induced 


to say, " We will consent to five years' franchise etc. if we have 
trustworthy guarantees of future freedom from interference. 
A special mission would be welcome with which we could carry 
this through." This would not necessarily mean withdrawing 
Milner or Greene or both, though the critical business would 
be put into other hands. I am sorry you think it is impossible 
that the Transvaal Government could have misunderstood 
Greene. No misunderstanding is to me impossible, especially 
when people look at things from such different sides. I cannot 
comprehend how the Transvaal Government could have taken 
the step they did, so certain to be quoted against them, unless 
they had misunderstood Greene. I prefer to leave to newspaper 
writers charges of deceit when a simpler explanation is easy. 

From Joseph Chamberlain 

September 21, 1899. — You appear to have forgotten that at 
the outset of our representations in favour of the UitlanderSjin 
1896 we offered to guarantee the independence of the Transvaal 
against all attacks from British possessions or elsewhere — and 
were snubbed by President Kruger for our pains. Of course 
such a Mission as you propose would involve the instant resigna- 
tion of Milner and Greene. They may be " lost minds," but they 
are gentlemen. Such a result would, I am convinced, be deplored 
and resented by the majority of Englishmen. 

Courtney had repeatedly defended the foreign policy of 
Lord Salisbury when it was attacked by his own followers, 
and he regarded the Foreign Secretary as the strongest 
bulwark against the temper of aggressive Imperialism. 
After failing with the Colonial Secretary he turned as a 
last resource to his chief. 

To Lord Salisbury 

September 26, 1899. — I believe you saw a letter I wrote 
Chamberlain last week. I am now enclosing a copy of a letter 
I am sending to Buckle for insertion in the Times, and I hope 
you will not be too busy to read it. You have retrospectively 
condemned the Crimean war ; but we are both of us old enough to 
remember what a passion of prejudice was excited at the time, 
producing in the end an incapacity to see anything on the other 
side. We know too how Lord Aberdeen was drawn into that 


war and that, before it broke out, an agreement was on the point 
of being established — had been in fact approved by Napoleon III., 
but Lord Pahnerston would not allow it. Forgive me if I say 
that many minds now look to you to prevent the repetition of 
a similar national miscarriage although it may be on a smaller 

To the Editor of the " Times " 

Sir — I am grateful to " Plain Speech," though I should 
have liked him better had he given us his name. Throwing 
aside all disguises of law and treaties, he proclaims that we fight 
in South Africa, if we do fight, to enforce our will in the two 
Repubhcs as in Cape Colony, because the Dutch are bent on 
enforcing their will in the Cape Colony as in the two Repubhcs. 
I have seen no evidence of this last design which would satisfy 
my sane judgment, but I have long known that what " Plain 
Speech " avows is the secret motive of many. It is the suspicion 
o^ it which makes the Transvaal burghers stubborn and 
determines the Orange Free State to stand side by side with 
its neighbour. The naked avowal of this poUcy must open the 
eyes of many who have suffered themselves to be deluded by 
appeals to the broken obhgations of treaties. 

From Lord Salisbury 

October 2, 1899. — I ought to have thanked you sooner for 
your kindness in sending me a copy of your letter to the Times, 
when you were doubtful whether it would be published. I need 
not say that there are several statements which I should be 
disposed to question both in your pubhc letter and in your 
note to me. But I could not enter upon them without opening 
the whole controversy, and such an operation, even if it were 
practicable, would involve speaking of several matters which 
I am not now in a position to discuss. The only observation — 
one that is purely historical — which I should wish to make on 
your note is that I did not condemn the Crimean war because 
our grounds for fighting were insufficient, but because it was not 
our interest to undertake the championship of a Power so clearly 
moribund as Turkey. My general view of the situation, taken 
broadly, is sufficiently expressed in a letter signed " Enghshman " 
in to-day's Times. 

The letter in the Times to which the Prime Minister 
referred argued that the one aim of the Boer leaders in aU 


the South African States was the establishment of a RepubUc 
in which they would be supreme. " When we read it," 
wrote Mrs. Courtney, " we were appalled, and saw no hope 
from that quarter." So long as the controversy turned 
mainly on the franchise, there might be some chance of 
accommodation ; but if once the idea of a Pan-Afrikander 
conspiracy secured lodgement in a mind so Uttle disposed to 
jingoism as that of Lord SaUsbury the demand for a war to 
settle the question of racial supremacy would become 

To Lord Salisbury 

October ^, 1899. — I must thank you for your letter of Monday, 
which has followed me back from Beachy Head. I could not 
expect nor could I desire that you should enter into controversy 
with me. Perhaps, however, you will permit me to make two 
observations. First with reference to the Crimean war. A war 
that is inexpedient seems to me almost as much a crime as a war 
waged without sufficient grounds. A war with the Transvaal 
would in my judgment be open to both condemnations, and 
throwing my mind into the future I am afraid the next generation 
will be of the same opinion. Secondly, as you said the letter 
of an " Englishman " in the Times sufficiently expressed your 
general view, I have read it over again and I must say I am 
overwhelmed. If you really think that the one aim of the Boer 
leaders in all the South African States is to establish a Republic 
in which they would be supreme, all is lost. But where is the 
evidence to support this belief ? Does the conduct of Hofmeyr 
or of Schreiner or of Fischer or of Steyn or even of Kruger lend 
any countenance to it ? I am tempted to add, to me it is a 
delirious dream, though I must beg you to excuse me for saying 
it. I am profoundly depressed. 

From Lord Salisbury 

October 5, 1899. — I am sorry to seem to you delirious, but 
my conviction is the result of much reflection. Of course I 
cannot produce evidence which would convict Kruger of con- 
spiracy in a Court of Law. In political life you have to guess 
facts by the help of such indications as you can get. At first 
I accepted the favourable theory of the Dutch proceedings. 
But watching the course of negotiations I became convinced 


that Kruger was using the oppression of the Outlanders as a 
lever to exact from England a renunciation of suzerainty ; and 
the conduct of President Steyn and Mr. Schreiner, of the 
Afrikanders generally and of their sympathisers in Europe, 
has brought home to me the behef that there is an understanding 
among the leaders of Dutch opinion, and that their aspiration 
is the restoration of South Africa to the Dutch race. Such an 
aspiration has nothing strange in it. It is in harmony with 
the set of popular feehng in the present day ; and our proceedings 
at the beginning of this century and in 1834 have left many 

To Lord Salisbury 

October 6, 1899. — I am cast down by your frank confession. 
Once get the fixed idea of a plan for the restoration of South 
Africa to the "Dutch race, and a thousand innocent things will 
seem to fit in with this conspiracy. The most harmless suggestion 
becomes part of a plot. I confess I see no evidence of anything 
beyond a passionate desire to maintain the independence of the 
two Repubhcs. Ste5m and his people have worked hard to make 
peace, and their resolution to share the fate of their neighbours 
is tragic. Is it " preternatural suspicion " on their part to think 
that they are themselves threatened in view of the language 
held here ? Each side is dreadfuUy afraid of the other and quite 
innocently distorts its opponent's position. 

Every hour the hopes of peace grew less, and the only 
comfort that the waning days brought to Courtney was the 
knowledge that his views were shared by a good many of 
his friends. " Courtney's speeches have been admirable," 
wrote Canon Bamett to his brother.^ Commander Bethell, 
who often held his notes for him in the House, wrote to 
express his " amazement at the aggressive poUcy " of his 
leaders. " The more I look into the matter," wrote Stead, 
" the more monstrously unthinkable is the proposal to go 
to war for that attenuated etymological ghost of suzerainty." 
Sir Wilfrid Lawson wrote bitterly that the nation was 
behaving as though it were mainly composed of criminal 
lunatics. A more measured protest came from a close 
friend in the Liberal Unionist camp. 

^ Life, ii. 127. 


From Arthur Elliot 

September 29. — I am so glad you liked my letter in the Times. 
I have some reproachful private letters from two important 
personages " on " that paper, written rather in sorrow than 
in anger at my line. Really the state of affairs is too deplorable, 
and I cannot get out of my head all the miseries that are in store 
for British and Boers ahke — and all for what ? I should have 
spoken in the House, and was ready to do so had any one made 
on our side a jingo speech ; but, with the exception of Saunderson, 
no one did so. His speech produced the usual Irish row, and 
I did not think it was worth answering. I now wish aU the same 
that I had spoken ; but I did not wish to do so unless compelled 
at the time by the nature of the debate, for I felt that such 
speeches might induce the Boers to reject the terms Chamberlain 
was offering them, and which I hoped they would accept. The 
pubhc, or the surface part of it, is in high fever just now, and 
men are goading on the Government to war. I am afraid now 
it is really inevitable. Even a five year franchise being accepted 
now would hardly do much good. The newcomers would come 
in as conquering enemies. About three weeks ago I wrote 
privately to the Duke of Devonshire saying what I thought ; 
and he wrote back immediately after the first Cabinet sa5dng 
that he thought the despatch they had just authorised Chamber- 
lain to send would not go beyond what I should approve. 
Nor did it. The last despatches since the Cabinet took the job up 
have been moderate in tone. But we should have had some 
suaviter in modo throughout, and we might have escaped the 
present ugly position. It is not to my mind the substance 
of what Chamberlain and Milner have professed to ask that 
is wrong ; but that their diplomacy (despatches, telegrams, 
speeches) has been of a rasping character, and that nothing has 
been said or done to soothe the feehngs of our Dutch fellow- 
subjects. I suppose we shall be at war in less than a week, and 
that ParHament will meet next month. What then ? In case 
of war I shall certainly not do anything to prevent its being 
brought to a trimnphant close as quickly as possible ; and I 
think it would be utterly wrong to resist a vote of credit. At 
the same time I think one ought to take up an independent 
position and aid at the first opportunity the cause of peace. 

To Arthur Elliot 

October 1, 1899. — I was very glad to get your letter, although 
the turn things have now taken depresses me much. Balfour's 


speech at Dundee drives away hope ; it is so unthinking, so 
careless, as to be painful. Perhaps Lord Salisbury may yet save 
us. He did save us on the West Coast of Africa, and if he had 
the conduct of this affair we should surely never have got into 
our present position. One word about the future. Don't 
make up your mind too soon as to what you will do. You now 
regret that you did not speak in July, and I think there are others 
who share that feehng. To me it seems at present that if war 
is declared by our Government and money asked for, those who 
think as we do should express our protest against the evil brought 
upon us if not by voice yet by vote. It may be justifiable and 
even wise to withdraw from a pertinacious opposition that 
must be ineffectual and might be injurious without, however, 
revoking any expression of opinion and remaining ready at any 
moment to intervene (if opportunity afford) with counsels of 

The greatest encouragement came from Sir Edward 
Clarke, who had displayed his wonted independence of 
judgement in a published letter to his constituents. 

To Sir Edward Clarke 

Eastbourne, September 24, 1899. — When I read your letter 
on Wednesday I was moved to write at once to express my 
gratitude and dehght ; but my delay has been so far of use that 
I can say that I feel as strongly now as I did then. I look 
forward with greatest interest to your speech on Thursday and 
hope it will be well reported. We are in the most wretched 
condition. People have sUpped from point to point till they 
have lost the power of right judgment. I cannot understand 
how Webster and Finlay gave an opinion that suzerainty still 
existed by treaty ; but indeed we do not know exactly what 
opinion they gave or the case put before them. 

From Sir Edward Clarke 

September 26. — Thanks for your letter. I have better hope 
of peace to-day, and I shall strive to the last to save the Govern- 
ment and the country from the folly and crime of war. 

To Sir Edward Clarke 

October 1, 1899. — I must write to thank you for your admirable 
speech at Plymouth. I have of course a personal and a selfish 


interest in what is said with such authority on the borders of my 
own constituency ; but I think if it had been spoken at Newcastle- 
on-Tyne instead of by the Tamar I should be not the less grateful 
and glad. It must have immense effect throughout the country, 
and if the time before us were a Httle longer I should be hopeful. 
Balfour's speech at Dundee has, however, depressed me greatly. 
Pray God that Lord Salisbury takes a wider and more serious 
view. But the thread is very fine and slender and may already 
be snapped. I cannot believe that your Committee will take 
any step to lead to your resignation. Your absence from 
ParHament would be a loss to the country. 

On October 7 Courtney received an invitation to speak 
at Edinburgh ; but now that war was daily expected he 
felt it his duty to address his constituents before going 
farther afield, and arranged by telegraph a meeting at 
Liskeard for October 12. On October 10 the evening papers 
contained the rumour of the expected ultimatum from the 
Boers, which Chamberlain, whom he chanced to meet, 
promptly confirmed. With a heavy heart he journeyed to 
Cornwall next day, weU aware that a crisis had arrived in 
his own no less than in his country's fortunes. 


What a moment to make a speech ! A perfect howl of 
indignation at Boer insolence. Snell (the agent) meets us at 
the station with other Liberal Unionists, who greet L. respect- 
fully but opine to-day's news will alter his opinion and Sir 
E. Clarke's too. Poor SneU very low about meeting and an 
election. If it took place next week he does not see where our 
supporters would come from. 

" Last year," began Courtney, " I spoke on the Tsar's 
rescript. Where are those suggestions on which we then 
agreed and on which the Powers at the Hague were unani- 
mous ? Must we and the Boers fight without any inter- 
position of a dispassionate authority ? Those who were so 
ready to hail the rescript as a message of peace now appear 
to have shut their ears to the counsels which they then 
embraced and to rush blindly into battle, careless of any- 
thing but the winning of the victory on which they are bent. 


It is a dreadful contrast, a terrible humiKation. It is said 
South Africa is not a signatory of the Hague Convention 
and not a sovereign state. That is a mere technical plea. 
If the principle is right, we should have adopted it." Though 
the air was now filled with the sound of war, they should 
try to understand how the trouble presented itself to their 
enemies. No wonder they were suspicious. The Raid by 
itself was bad enough, but the Boers beheved that the 
missing telegrams would have proved the compHcity of the 
Colonial Secretary. Their suspicions had been deepened 
by the revival of the claim to suzerainty. Neither was the 
Transvaal free from blame. He never entertained such a 
ridiculous idea. Their Government was in many respects 
most faulty. But was it so faulty that we must have war 
to make it better ? Did the miners who returned to Corn- 
wall say it was necessary ? They did not. The Outlanders 
were growing in numbers and wealth ; in a few years they 
would have been predominant. Those who had the spirit 
of peace within them might well have waited. But certain 
people in England could not wait. It was now beginning 
to be maintained that the Dutch had resolved to drive us 
out of South Africa, and the action of the Orange Free State 
was taken as proof. That action was a proof of loyalty, 
not of conspiracy. Greater love hath no man than that 
he lay down his hfe for another. If we had brought to bear 
some dispassionate judgement, and sent out such a man as 
Lord Pauncefote, we could have settled the difficulty without 
war. The Boers had now taken a fatal step, but we told 
them that the time for negotiation was past, and that we 
should formulate our own conditions. Time passed and 
meanwhile troops were hurried out to the cry. Remember 
Majuba. " I regret the ultimatum. It would have been 
finer, nobler, greater if they stood waiting our assault, but 
that was almost too much, for human nature. At last they 
said. Must we die hke rats in a hole ? We must fight for it. 
I lament the ultimatum, but I cannot honestly condemn 
it. Opposing forces were coming up, forming a ring round 
them. Were they to stand until they were overwhelmed ? 
The Dutch population in the two RepubHcs is only half that 


of Cornwall. Every generous soldier must feel there is no 
glory to be gained in a war of such odds. We shall create 
in South Africa something like the divisions we all lament 
in Ireland. We must now wait and watch for any oppor- 
tunity for more sober counsel." 


L. speaks for an hour and a half without recourse to a note, 
full of argument, reason, passion and pathos. Impressed but 
did not turn his hearers, I think. He had refused to accept 
a simple vote of confidence, to be followed by a resolution in 
support of the war. The Resolution of confidence and regret 
at war was lost. L. made a touching little speech acknowledging 
the gravity of a vote against him in Liskeard, and the meeting 
broke up with no signs of exultation. Our nearest friends were 
much distressed ; but though mortified I have great thankfulness 
that he was able to stand up so grandly for right at this moment 
when others are throwing up the sponge. And I must admit 
to feeUng reHef that the Conservatives have broken from him. 
It has been embarrassing to have support which is so little 
understanding of his poUtical position, though full of personal 

Letters of congratulation and condolence poured in 
from Liberals. 

From F. A. Channing, M.P. 

You have behaved nobly and your own constituents will 
recognise it soon. Do not hastily — even if worse things befaU — • 
give up your seat. In these wishy-washy times, when every 
timid time-server has a sponge in hand to wipe off the truth 
if inconvenient, men of conscience and character who are in the 
House must stop there. No Liberal vote anyhow should ever 
be cast against a man Hke you. 

From Stephen Gladstone 

Please allow a stranger to say how deeply he honours you 
for your speech at Liskeard. You will receive so very many 
" kicks " for this that a stray " halfpenny " or two may not be 
unwelcome. I am sure your most manful, noble and Christian 


speech must have cost immense effort and no Uttle pain. I 
can ahnost reaHse how my father would have exclaimed, "God 
be thanked for such a speech," as was his wont, especially when 
he found it coming from another side. 

From Mrs. Bright Clark 

I value nothing in my own life more than my father's con- 
demnation of the Crimean war. I remember how much he 
suffered because he loved his country, and therefore perhaps 
I especially sympathise with those who have courage to stand 
and plead for justice and honour before a misguided constituency. 
How dreadfully sad it all is — and I have seen it coming so long. 
I have had no illusions. 

To Mrs. Bright Clark 

I am very grateful to you for your friendly letter. The 
image and example of your father have often been in my mind in 
these later days. I remember well the torrent of feeling which 
swept men away during the Crimean war, and I fear nothing 
better can be expected to-day. Indeed when we recall the 
condition of the national temper in the years immediately before 
the Crimean war, how pacific it was and what force and influence 
were exercised by the leaders of the so-called Manchester School, 
and contrast it with the restless, aggressive imperialism of 
our own days, we ought to be prepared for a worse rout. I am 
glad, however, to know that there remain distributed throughout 
the country, though perhaps nowhere in a majority, a large 
company of quiet and resolute folk who can be trusted to support 
peaceful counsels. I have been astonished at the number of 
communications I have received since I spoke at Liskeard. 

On returning to London, Courtney and Mr. Morley paid a 
visit to Harcourt, and found the old chief opposed to an 
amendment to the Address, though his condemnation of 
Chamberlain's diplomacy was as severe as their own. 
Campbell-Bannerman, though equally filled with sorrow 
and indignation, was the leader of a divided party, and was 
not a free agent. It therefore fell to unofficial members 
to lead the attack. When Parliament met on October 17 
to vote supplies, John Dillon and Labouchere demanded 


arbitration ; and on the rejection of this impossible claim 
the real battle opened with Philip Stanhope's amendment 
expressing " strong disapproval of the conduct of the 
negotiations," The attack was supported by Campbell- 
Bannerman and Harcourt from the Opposition Bench, and 
by Arthur Elliot from the ranks of the Liberal Unionists ; 
but it was on the following day, October 19, that one of the 
most dramatic scenes in modern ParHamentary history 
occurred. When the Colonial Secretary had told his story 
Sir Edward Clarke cross-examined the witness in his best 
forensic style, and elicited a startUng confession. Chamber- 
lain now declared that his despatch of August 28 accepted 
" at least nine-tenths " of the Boer offer, and he subse- 
quently confessed that the remaining tenth was not worth 
a war. " Really," exclaimed Sir Edward, " this becomes 
more and more sad. It is dreadful to think of a country 
entering on a war, a crime against civilisation, when this 
sort of thing has been going on." 


One of the most dramatic incidents I have seen in the House. 
The Conservative benches were silent. I do not think that Sir 
Edward himself was at all prepared for such a statement, and 
his tone was full of surprised and almost painful emotion. I 
said to Lady Harcourt, who was near us, Chamberlain is a beaten 
man, morally at any rate. No one will forget the scene that 
evening, — Clarke's pained earnestness, Chcimberlain's hunted 
look, the dead silence on the Conservative side, and the repressed 
excitement of the Liberals. 

The remaining speeches were coloured by what John 
Morley described as Chamberlain's " revelation " ; and 
Courtney, who followed his friend and wound up the debate 
for the Opposition, denounced " the horrible failure of 
diplomacy " it denoted. " The amendment," he cried, 
" has been proved up to the hilt. It is a tragedy. The 
Colonial Secretary tells us that his reply was intended as a 
qualified acceptance, but it was not understood by the 
Boers as such, and yet he did not tell them that they had 
misunderstood him. Talleyrand said that language had 



been given us to conceal our thoughts, but I had hoped 
that belonged to the old diplomacy." Moreover, two days 
before he had sent the " qualified acceptance " he had 
delivered an inflammatory harangue at Highbury. Finally 
he had said that he would formulate fresh proposals, but 
instead of doing so he had hurried out troops. " The 
ultimatum was violent, outrageous, a thing not to be 
endured. But how can you expect them to wait till you 
come up with all your forces and enforce instant fulfilment 
of your demands ? " Mr. Haldane had argued that a con- 
flict between the two races was inevitable ; but they had 
hved in harmony in Cape Colony and the Free State, and 
they would have hved in harmony in the Transvaal but for 
the discovery of gold. There was much in the Government 
of the Republic which required and justified our re- 
monstrances, but the abuses in the domain of taxation, 
education and justice were exaggerated and formed no 
justification for war. 

Mr. Balfour replied for the Government, and the amend- 
ment was rejected by 362 to 135. In the fierce encounter 
Chamberlain's reputation as a diplomatist had been badly 
damaged, and the minority vote was a respectable total. 
But the division was none the less a triumph for the Ministry, 
for the unity of the Liberal party was shattered by the 
shock of war. Its leader abstained from voting, while pri- 
vately declaring that the more of his followers who voted for 
the amendment the more pleased he would be. Sir Edward 
Grey, Sir Henry Fowler, and Mr. Haldane supported the 
Government, while Harcourt, John Morley and James 
Bryce joined Coiurtney and Sir Edward Clarke in voting 
for Phihp Stanhope's amendment. The details of the 
franchise negotiations were quickly forgotten in the rush 
of events, and the voices of criticism were drowned in the 
outburst of patriotic emotion which every country displays 
in the opening days of war. 

A week later the debate was renewed on the Second 
Reading of the Vote of Credit. In reply to Harcourt's 
attack on the Highgate speech as provocative. Chamberlain 
urged that it was at any rate plain. Courtney followed the 


Colonial Secretary, and after reviewing his diplomacy asked 
how such a man could complain of the crookedness of 
Kruger. The Colonial Secretary divided his critics into 
Irish and men of peace at any price. " I utterly repudiate 
the notion that I belong to such a party. I have advocated 
war on more than one occasion. But I want on this and 
on all occasions to compare what you are aiming at with 
the cost you are going to pay." Some men looked on the 
Boers as schoolboys — give them a licking and they would 
be your best friends ever after. That had not been their 
history. We had a terrible lack of imagination of the t3^e 
and character of these men and their passion for hberty 
and independence. It was now the fashion for members 
to start from the Ultimatum ; but history, with a cooler 
mind and a wider vision, would ask whether our demands 
were of such importance and urgency as required to be 
enforced by war, and would return a negative answer 



The object for which Pariiament had been summoned — the 
votmg of credits — was quickly accompUshed, and the 
country turned its undivided attention to the war. The 
majority of the Liberal leaders beheved that the conflict 
might have been avoided ; but most of them contented 
themselves with making their protest and disclaiming 
responsibiUty. In the early months of the conflict Campbell- 
Bannerman displayed a consideration for the feelings of the 
right wing of his followers which was not always reciprocated. 
Harcourt was too old and infirm for active campaigning. 
John Morley was in dehcate health and immersed in the 
archives at Hawarden. James Bryce re-issued his Impres- 
sions of South Africa, with a new Preface which was quoted 
all over the world and exercised a decisive influence in the 
United States ; but he was disinclined to launch a crusade. 
Veterans like Lord Ripon and Lord Spencer lacked the power 
of popular appeal, while doughty warriors of a younger 
generation, such as Sir Robert Reid and Mr. Lloyd George, 
were not yet national figures. Thus the leadership of the 
anti-war movement passed into the hands of the most 
independent of British statesmen. " That Mr. Courtney is 
at this moment the real leader of the Opposition," wrote 
the Daily Chronicle, " I do not suppose any one who has 
watched the recent debates would deny — certainly nobody 
on the Conservative side. How, you ask yourself, was this 
man ever brought into such company, as he rises grim and 
minatory ? What earthly connection can there be between 



this plain-spoken member, with his Puritan directness and 
simplicity, and the crowd around him, whose faces express 
disgust, impatience, rage, or mere polite indifference ? No 
wonder he lies heavy on the souls of his own party ; no 
wonder the great mass of men on the other side Usten to him 
eagerly. Perhaps they catch an echo of another voice 
which used to be raised when injustice was abroad — ^the 
voice of the friend of the httle peoples." 

No problem in the ethics of citizenship is more difficult 
to resolve than the duty of men and women who disapprove 
of a conflict in which their country is engaged. The popular 
notion is that critics should hold their tongue when a dispute 
arises, in order that the other Power may not be encouraged 
by the spectacle of internal divisions, and that when war 
breaks out the sole task before the nation is to win it. Such 
doctrine is good enough for those who have no qualms as 
to the wisdom of their statesmen or the justice of their 
cause ; but " My country, right or wrong," is no axiom for a 
sensitive conscience and an independent mind. Ministers 
who disapprove the action of their colleagues, like Lord 
Derby in 1878 and Bright in 1882, resign as a matter of 
course ; and though private Members of ParUament have no 
direct share in deciding the course of the ship, they cannot 
divest themselves of responsibility towards their constituents 
and towards the wider constituencfy of pubHc opinion at 
home and abroad. Yet even when the right or duty of 
protest is conceded, there will be much divergence as to how 
far it shall be carried. Shall the critic content himself with 
an initial warning and rebuke and then wait till the storm 
is over, or shall he strive with might and main to counter- 
work the agents and the tendencies which in his opinion 
have produced the catastrophe ? The question must be 
answered by each individual for himself. Some men have 
greater confidence in their own judgement than others. In 
Courtney's case there was no hesitation as to the course he 
should pursue. He beUeved that the Boers had wanted 
nothing more than to be left alone ; that the main cause of 
the conflict was to be found in the discovery of gold and in 
the subsequent errors of the British Government ; and that 


no lasting settlement could be achieved while the mind of 
the coimtry was warped by passion and ignorance. Such 
men work for the future, knowing that the final verdict on 
their conduct will be pronounced long after they and their 
accusers have passed from the scene. 

Courtney was well aware of the price of his revolt, and 
he was prepared to pay it. His Conservative supporters in 
East Cornwall met to condemn his action. The patriots 
who honour men of peace with anonymous communications 
bombarded him with abusive post-cards. " What a pity that 
a soft-nosed buUet cannot be lodged in the place where your 
brains are supposed to be," cried one, " It would be a good 
job for old England if you and Stead were himg up to a 
street lamp-post," shouted another. " To heU with you, 
you dirty Uttle England dog." A third, addressed " To the 
Little Englander, Mr. Leonard Courtney, Knight of the 
White Feather, House of Commons," contained the words, 
" The Constable of the Tower will make room for you. A 
rope and short shrift for traitors." Such outbreaks were 
balanced by many expressions of admiration and goodwill. 
His fellow Comishman, " Q," dedicated his new novel, The 
Ship of Stars, to the Minority Leader in the darkest days of 
October. " Among the names of Hving Enghshmen the 
author could have chosen none fitter to be inscribed above 
a story which rests upon the two texts, ' Lord, make men 
as towers,' and ' All towers carry a light.' Although for 
you Heaven has seen fit to darken the hght, it shines 
outwards over the waters, and is a help to men, a guiding 
light tended by brave hands. We pray, sir — we who sail in 
little boats — ^for long life to the tower and the unfaltering 

Courtney was at aU times grateful for first-hand in- 
formation ; and no letters were more welcome than those 
of Mr. Amery, who had reached South Africa in the middle 
of September. Though the veteran statesman and the 
briUiant young journalist were in fundamental disagreement, 
they confided their convictions to each other with perfect 
frankness and good temper. 


From L. S. Amery 

Johannesburg, September 30, 1899. — By the time this reaches 
you war will, I fear, have already broken out, and it will be a very 
much more serious business than many people seem to have 
imagined. As usual we shall have walked into it without being 
properly prepared. My own behef is that if we had embarked a 
large force for South Africa, long before the negotiations reached 
so acute a stage, we could have kept a friendly tone throughout 
and secured a reasonable settlement without all the expense 
and bitter feeling of a war. For this war is to all intents and 
purposes a civil war. That it is so makes it from one point 
of view all the more necessary. South Africa is one country 
containing everywhere the same mixed population, and there 
can never be quiet so long as it is governed by different States 
having totally incompatible ambitions. If the Outlanders 
could have got in with a good grace on President Kruger's part 
there might have been some hope of this mischievous ideal of a 
purely Dutch Republican South Africa being dried up at the root 
in the course of a few years. As it is I can see only one solution 
of the whole question, and that is the annexation of both the 
Republics. I feel convinced myself, though I know you disagree, 
that there would never have been any serious trouble in South 
Africa if the insurgents had been suppressed in 1881. The task 
will be much harder now — yet there is nothing else to be done. 
But how many lives and how many millions of money it will cost 
I should not Uke to say. I have tried not to take a biassed view 
of affairs here, and have in fact confined myself mainly to hearing 
the views of those on the Afrikander side hke Schreiner, Hofmeyr, 
Fischer, etc., or of very moderate and open-minded people like 
Innes, or Fraser of the Free State. The Cape Afrikanders, 
Hofmeyr, etc., have very little good to say of Kruger, whose 
obstinacy and narrow-mindedness and unwilhngness to concede 
anything without reservation made the negotiations impossible. 
I had some conversation with him on Thursday morning which I 
cabled over — at least the pohtical part of it. He inquired after 
you and expressed his regret that your sight had failed so seriously. 
Dr. Pierson was right in his description of Mr. Kruger's speech — 
a mixture of grunts and snorts difficult even for a fellow-country- 
man to follow. In appearance he is far uglier than any caricature 
that has ever been published. He impressed me as a man of 
vigour, tenacity and resource, but quite unfit to be the ruler of a 
state. The more progressive Boers in Pretoria lay all the blame 
for the present situation on his head and Leyds'. Between them 


the two had instituted an ahnost absolute tyranny ; the field 
comets were appointed and paid to elect only the proper sort of 
members to the Raad, and the Raad was kept in proper sub- 
servience by similar methods. The restriction of the franchise, 
the secret negotiations with Germany, the importation of 
Hollanders, were all parts of a continuous and logically coherent 
anti-English policy. When that poUcy was getting intolerable 
even in the Transvaal, the miserable folly of the Jameson Raid 
business resuscitated Kruger once more. 

To L. S. Amery 

November 30, 1899. — I was very glad to get your letter, and 
if I have delayed replying you must not suppose I did not highly 
value it. From September 30 to now what has not happened ? 
Popular expectation is already very much sobered. The most 
foohsh have got to understand that we have a difiicult job in 
hand ; but there is not the least abatement of the conviction 
that it will be done and of the resolution to do it. Men are 
beginning to frame schemes of settlement for the future, to which 
your last public letter has been a contribution. I don't intend 
to worry you with a review of the points on which we differ. I 
will only say that you quite fail to convince me of the widespread 
conspiracy and consequent necessity of grappHng with it. In 
my judgment we should have gradually won everything that we 
wanted without war — even if we had started with the seven years' 
franchise plus the qualifications attached to it. The Joint Com- 
mission could have examined these last and would have got rid of 
some of the most absurd. Within a moderate time we should 
have got everything we wanted, if what we wanted did not extend 
to the subjugation of the RepubHcs ; and I did not desire this 
subjugation. I take this to be really the crux of the divisions 
among men. Chamberlain did not want war, that is he would 
have preferred to get what he wanted without war ; but he did 
mean to put the South African Republics under himself, and to 
tell the truth I have a great suspicion that you have approached 
the examination of the situation with this inmost desire. Against 
this I shall continue to wage, it may be in vain as far as I am 
concerned, invincible hostility ; feeHng persuaded that this 
engrossing arrogance which men call ImperiaHsm will be the ruin 
of our country. Do not misunderstand. It is the spirit I fight 
against. It may be an inevitable consequence of what has 
happened that the end of this particular drama will be the 
absorption of the two RepubUcs into a British Dominion : but 
this is one of the problems of the future. 


A large volume of opinion hostile to the war existed, 
and Courtney at once set to work to organise it. On 
November i the South African Conciliation Committee was 
established at a meeting in the Westminster Palace Hotel, 
under the auspices of Selous, the mighty hunter, Courtney 
was pressed to be chairman, but thought it best to decline. 
On December 18, however, when the Committee met at 
Cheyne Walk, the host was elected President. The new 
body was publicly launched in a letter to the press on 
January 17, signed by Courtney, Selous and Frederic Mac- 
kamess, the Chairman of the Executive. The first public 
meeting was held in the small Queen's Hall on January 31, 
when Courtney presided at an address delivered by Frederic 
Harrison. The chairman argued that annexation of the 
two Republics would involve an interminable series of 
conflicts and difficulties. The statesmen who recognised 
their independence in the 'fifties had been justified by events ; 
for the task they set themselves was in process of fulfilment 
till it was interrupted in 1877 by the spirit of ImperiaHsm 
which was fastening Hke a cancer on our national Hfe, and 
by the discoveries of diamonds and gold, which stimulated 
the worst passions of some of our people. Gatherings 
followed in different parts of the country ; but the public 
temper was excited by the defeats and anxieties of the winter, 
and inflamed by the stories of white flag treachery and other 
evidences of the abnormal depravity of the enemy with 
which the press of every country feeds its readers in time of 
war. Meetings were broken up, and scenes of violence were 
witnessed in Edinburgh and Scarborough, when Mr. Cron- 
wright Schreiner attempted to explain the attitude of the 
Afrikanders to the great struggle. Those who denied that 
the war was just and inevitable were branded as Little 
Englanders and Pro-Boers, as Bright and Cobden had been 
labelled pro-Russians in 1854, When Campbell-Bannerman, 
Harcourt and Sir Robert Reid complained of the organised 
rowdyism, Mr. Balfour replied that it was useless to ask of 
human nature more than it could give. Threatening letters 
began to arrive at Cheyne Walk, and filled Mrs. Courtney 
with apprehension that her husband might be assaulted in 


the street. But every poisoned dart endeared him to the 
men and women of whom he was the damitless spokesman. 
The friendly sword-play with Mr. Amery continued 
briskly throughout the winter. 

From L. S. Amery 

Cape Town, December 26, 1899. — An answer to one question 
of yours, that touching the existence of an Afrikander conspiracy 
against England, you will find in an article on the subject which 
I am writing for this mail. There has been nothing of the nature 
of an organised plot countenanced by the leaders of the Bond, 
nor do I think that Hofmeyr has played a part Hke that played 
by Rhodes before the Raid and not let his left hand know what 
his right was doing. But there has been much intriguing, 
preaching of disaffection, in some border districts secret arming ; 
and the whole thing was growing apace, so that the possibiUty of 
a widespread rising at the summons of the Transvaal in a few 
years' time was by no means excluded. For that the Transvaal 
meant to turn us out of South Africa at some future date, and 
before it had lost its essentially Afrikander character by allowing 
the EngUsh Uitlander a share of power, I feel firmly convinced. 
The ambition was in a way both natural and intelligible. The 
Raid and our behaviour after the Raid of course quickened their 
determination and quickened anti-English feeUng in Cape Colony 
and so brought the catastrophe nearer ; but it would have come 
all the same, though in that case our conscience would have been 
clearer. My letter urging annexation was not written only as 
my own idea of the solution. Of course all the EngHsh will 
accept nothing less ; even Rose-Innes, who felt very doubtful 
about it at first, has since told me he cannot conceive any other 
solution. Solomon, the Attorney General of the Schreiner 
ministry, says the same, and says that most of the responsible 
leaders of the Dutch here think so too, though they cannot openly 
say so. I feel that if we leave a real independence we shall have the 
old difficulty cdl over again, while if we determine to make it a 
sham the friction of interference will be infinitely greater on each 
occasion and the HkeHhood of a future rising increased, while the 
forces we could enlist on our side — Uitlanders, etc. — would be 
weakened and divided. 

From L. S. Amery 

Cape Town, December 29, 1899. — I am afraid my article on 
Afrikander disloyalty got written in rather a hurry, and as a 


result did not bring out clearly enough my main point, namely, 
that while there was no organised conspiracy on a large scale 
there was a general disloyalty, sporadically even actual conspiracy, 
the whole kept alive by the Transvaal. I must confess I look on 
that disloyalty as perfectly natural and as a result of the Trans- 
vaal's existence as an independent national state. If the inde- 
pendence of the Transvaal had been merely nominal, i.e. if the 
so-caUed paramountcy had been real, if from the first we had told 
the Transvaal that we should consider the importation of a single 
big gun as a hostile act, while permanently keeping 20,000 or 
30,000 men in South Africa ourselves, we might have allowed 
things to continue. As it was, time was on the side of the Trans- 
vaal, not on our side. Against a strong national ambition, 
organised and supported by ceaseless effort and by force of arms, 
the so-called natural factors of commerce, language, etc. cannot 
prevail. Hungary and Bohemia are instances of this. As to the 
settlement I have expressed myself fuUy in print. I am afraid 
you do not agree with my point of view, but I am very earnestly 
convinced that between annexation and complete evacuation of 
South Africa there can be no tolerable middle course. Half 
poHcies are useless. 

To L. S. Amery 

February 7, 1900. — Of course I read aU your letters (to the 
Times) and rejoice in their sanity. They come Hke whiffs of 
good sense amid the delirium of most correspondents — a deUrium 
which, as you know, has in my judgment reached the High 
Commissioner. But I am not persuaded as to the accuracy of 
your conclusions respecting the present or the future. As to 
the present you give up conspiracies and talk of aspirations. 
Have you ever reflected how many incipient aspirations may be 
developed by people who blunder into war ? Ever since Waterloo 
there have been recurrent declarations that war with France was 
inevitable. If you had gone to war over West Africa, let us say, 
or Fashoda, its inevitable character would have been insisted on. 
The inevitable has not come to pass, and, if the statesmen of the 
future on both sides of the Channel approximate to the wisdom 
of their predecessors, it will not come to pass. You may say the 
inevitable war between France and Germany did come off. Yes ! 
owing to Bismarck's falsification of a telegram. The quarrel had 
been settled to his disgust till he blew it into a flame again 
with his he. Had it not been so, the probability is that Louis 
Napoleon's early death would have precipitated domestic diffi- 
culties in France occupying the whole attention of the French, 


and Germany would have jogged on in the work of pacific unifica- 
tion. Once more if war should happen between the United 
States and ourselves the evidence of " aspirations " would be 
overwhelming. But I have said enough, though I fear not 
sufficient to shake you. As to the future, what is the provision 
of a United South African Commonwealth with conterminous 
provinces ? You yourself give this up at least for an indefinite 
time, during which the Dutch must be governed by the power of 
England. In my speech last Monday, of which I fancy scarcely 
a word wiU reach Africa save in the files of the Times where no 
one will look at it, I uttered a warning against this threatened 
future of ruHng South Africa by an EngHsh garrison. We are 
indeed rapidly making for such a depth, but I will still hope for 
some means of escape. It takes all my patience, however, when 
I think of what might have been in comparison with what is ! 
And the agents of the transformation ! ! Enough, enough — 
write me again as often and as fully as you can, and preserve your 
sanity and your courage. 

From L. S. Amery 

March 12, 1900. — I am honestly convinced we are doing right 
in waging this war, and that we shall be guilty of a blunder of 
the most criminal sort if we stop short of the annexation of the 
Repubhcs. Whatever the terms we impose on the RepubUcs 
now nothing will convince the Dutch in South Africa that they 
have not got the best of the war, that we have not yielded in 
imminent fear of foreign intervention, and that the Republics 
have not accepted the terms only as an opportunity for re-arming. 
South Africa is much better without the Repubhcs, and though, " 
as long as we thought difficulties might be patched over peace- 
fully we were ready to resign ourselves to their continuance, I 
should think it wrong to do so now. Besides, what is to happen 
to the EngHsh population not only of the Rand but of every town 
and village in the Transvaal and the Orange Free State who have 
been driven out ? 

On the eve of the new session Courtney visited his 
constituents for the first time since the outbreak of hostili- 
ties ; and the chairman of the Liberal Unionists of South- 
East Cornwall left him in no doubt as to the reception that 
awaited him. 



From the Earl of St. Germans 

January i6, 1900. — ^The 23rd will suit me very well for the 
meeting of Delegates. Mr. Snell has, no doubt, kept you informed 
as to the state of feeling in the constituency. As far as my own 
feehngs are concerned, although I entirely differ from you in 
regard to the war, it would give me sincere pleasure to see you 
again returned for South-East Cornwall ; but I cannot disguise 
from myself that at present your chances are by no means satis- 
factory. Some two and a half months ago the Conservative 
section of the Unionist party intimated to me informally that, 
while the leaders of the section retained unabated their loyalty 
to the party and were not trying to go behind the compact, they 
considered that your attitude and vote on the foreign pohcy of 
the Government had alienated from you the confidence of the 
party, and that it would be impossible to secure for you the 
continued support of the rank and file at the next election. I 
take this to mean that while the Conservatives will not bring 
forward a candidate of their own to oppose you, they wiU give 
you Httle, if any, active support. In that case you would have 
to rely exclusively on the Liberal Unionist vote, and I much 
doubt if you would get the whole of that. Of course if the war 
is happily ended some time before the next election, feeling may 
calm down, and then your prospects would improve. 

The speaker began by revealing the fact that he had 
decHned office in 1880, as he feared that Gladstone would not 
undo the annexation against which he had protested. " The 
root of the mischief is the fact that he was unable with 
promptness and completeness to effect the restoration of the 
Transvaal. We have never been able to undo that mischief. 
What a different atmosphere would have prevailed ! " And 
yet, but for the discovery of gold, we might have grown into 
the same friendship with the Transvaal as we enjoyed in 
the Free State. The Raid convinced the Boers that we 
wished to rob them of their independence. They were 
wrong as to the British nation, but they had too much ground 
for their suspicions. " I have always exonerated the 
Colonial Secretary ; but it is his own fault if suspicion hangs 
heavy about him. How many have read the Hawksley 
letters which appeared in the IndSpendance Beige a fortnight 
ago ? (One hand is held up.) The Ministerial press has 


concealed them. They are terrible reading. No one can 
approach with a clear and just mind the discussion of recent 
diplomacy imless he reahses the temper of suspicion, anxiety 
and dread which filled the mind of the Transvaal Govern- 
ment." Yet Hofmeyr and the Free Staters pressed for 
concessions, and Kruger passed a seven years' franchise law, 
and made a conditional five years' offer which Chamberlain 
accepted as to nine-tenths, while the other tenth was not 
worth fighting about. He had, however, failed to make 
his meaning plain, delayed the formulation of new proposals, 
and hurried troops to the Cape and Natal. The war was 
now defended less on the ground of the grievances of the 
Outlanders than on that of a Dutch conspiracy to expel 
the British flag from South Africa, But that was an after- 
thought, and was unknown to the Government before the 
outbreak of hostihties. If guns were the proof, was not the 
Raid a warning that the Boers might have to defend them- 
selves ? " We must have mutual respect before we have 
enduring peace. We have grown to respect the Boers as 
fighters, and they will have to respect our men too. Some 
vindication of our strength will be absolutely necessary 
before peace can be established ; but the first opportunity 
of a peaceful settlement should be seized. The Boers have 
an indestructible love of independence. Let them retain it, 
subject to the abohtion of their armaments and the cession 
of the Rand." The audience Ustened quietly and with few 
expressions of dissent ; but the meeting had opened with 
letters from some prominent Liberal Unionists withdrawing 
their support. Though no hostile action was taken or 
suggested, it was evident that the days of the speaker's 
representation of East Cornwall were numbered. 

From Sir Wilfrid Lawson 

January 25. — I was very glad to read your speech — sound 
and strong. I feel that we are guilty if we allow the 
smallest opportunity to escape either in season or out of 
season of protesting against the gigantic crime which is now 
being prosecuted. 


The Liberal leaders, divided on the deeper issues of the 
war beyond hope of compromise, agreed to meet Parliament 
with an elastic formula which would permit each one of 
them to express his opinion without let or hindrance. An 
amendment to the Address was accordingly moved by Lord 
Edmund Fitzmaurice, " deploring the want of knowledge, 
foresight and judgement displayed by Ministers in their 
conduct of South African affairs since 1895, and in the 
preparations for the war now proceeding." The discussion, 
which continued for a week, was less dramatic than the 
debates of October ; for the views and arguments of the 
rival leaders were well known, and many stalwarts, Courtney 
among them, declined to vote. The opponents of the war, 
led by Campbell-Bannerman and Harcourt, Mr. Bryce, Sir 
Robert Reid and Mr. Lloyd George, denied the existence of 
the long-planned and gigantic conspiracy which the Govern- 
ment had only discovered since the outbreak of hostilities, 
and Sir Edward Clarke boldly demanded the resignation of 
the Colonial Secretary and the High Commissioner. The 
Liberal supporters of the war, on the other hand, confined 
themselves mainly to criticism of the military machine, 
which was brilHantly championed by George Wyndham, the 
Under-Secretary for War. The defence of Government 
pohcy naturally fell to Chamberlain, who denoimced the 
Majuba settlement, of which he had been one of the principal 
authors. The conflict, he declared, had been brewing, not 
since the Raid, but since the mistaken magnanimity of 1881. 
From that time onwards the Boers had been endeavouring 
to escape from their obligations. The root cause of the war 
was the difference of the Boer and British character and 
civiHsation, and of the Boer aspiration to get rid of British 
supremacy. There must be no second Majuba, and the 
Boers must never again be able to erect in South Africa a 
citadel of disaffection and race animosity, to endanger the 
paramountcy of Great Britain, or to treat an Enghshman as 
if he belonged to an inferior race. 

When Courtney rose shortly after Chamberlain he was 
greeted with loud cheers from the Liberal and Irish benches. 
" A good speech," wrote his wife in her Journal ; " but I 


have heard him more eloquent." Never had the Colonial 
Secretary, he began, displayed such energy or debating 
power ; and no wonder, for he had to vindicate himself. 
" For glory or for condemnation this is his war. I ask 
members to consider candidly whether if any other member 
of the Cabinet had been at the Colonial Office there would 
have been a war. That the mass of the nation supports 
him may be a great comfort to him ; but the statesman who 
is idoUsed by his generation may be regarded by subsequent 
generations as a man who has made a colossal mistake." 
Throughout the summer the Cape ministers, Steyn, Fischer, 
Hofme}^', and even President Kruger himself, had done their 
best to maintain peace. The statement of the Colonial 
Secretary, that the majority of Liberal members regarded 
the conflict as unnecessary, was quite correct^ and he gave 
no reason for his belief that it was inevitable. The Govern- 
ment never desired or expected war, and thought a mere 
show of force sufficient. The invader must first be expelled, 
and then methods to restore peace must be sought. 

Sir Edward Clarke's speech on the Address was followed 
by a peremptory demand for his resignation from his Con- 
servative constituents, and the fearless Tory lawyer passed 
for a time out of ParUamentary life. The example of 
Plymouth encouraged the Conservatives of East Cornwall 
to claim a similar sacrifice from their member ; but Comlney 
had no mind to surrender at the first blast of the trumpet, 
and addressed an Open Letter to his agent. 

To W. T. Snell 

My view has always been that when a candidate is elected 
on particular pledges and subsequently arrives at the conviction 
that he cannot keep them, he should resign and seek re-election. 
When, however, a new question crops up, he is under no such 
obligation, and is most faithful to the constitution in using his 
power in an honest attempt to grapple with it as a member of 
the great House of Dehberation and to help to educate the people 
in view of the exercise of their power when a new election comes. 
With respect to my own position three things have to be remem- 
bered. First, that I stood as a Liberal opposed to Home Rule. 
Secondly, that I offered to withdraw if I was not allowed the same 


liberty as in the previous Parliament. Thirdly, my judgment on 
the poHcy of deahng with the Dutch in South Africa has been 
known from my first session in Parliament. 

His stand for independence was encouraged by a letter 
from a veteran champion of individualism. 

From Herbert Spencer 

February 24. — ^There has grown up the altogether unwarrant- 
able assumption that a Member of Parhament represents that 
particular part of the constituency which has elected him, and 
when that part of the constituency or some Conservative or 
Liberal Association or what not, through whose instrumentahty 
he was elected, disapproves of his course, it seems to be thought, 
both by them and by the pubHc at large, that he is called upon 
to resign. But where is there any indication, either in the con- 
stitution or in the theory of representation, that a Member of 
Parhament represents any particular section of his constituency 
or any party ? So far as I know, the idea of party is not 
recognised in the representative system at all. A Member of 
Parhament represents a constituency and the whole constituency, 
and not any particular section of it. 

The supporters of the Government in East Cornwall did 
not allow the matter to rest ; and the chairman of the 
Liberal Unionists gently informed the member that it would 
save much unpleasantness if he were to resign. 

From Lord St. Germans 

March 9, 1900. — I had yesterday to undertake a very un- 
pleasant task, and to-day another equally so. You will have 
seen in the Western papers an account of the meeting of the 
Executive Committee of the Liberal Unionist Association and its 
result. The latter was a surprise to me, as I anticipated con- 
siderable difference of opinion. Out of the nine present, besides 
myself, seven were entirely in favour of the Resolution which was 
carried, and the other two, although they abstained from actually 
voting for it, offered no opposition. Of course, as the Resolu- 
tion only embodies a recommendation to the General Committee 
of the Association, it will have no force until it is adopted by the 
latter body ; but the remarkable unanimity shown yesterday at 

2 D 


the smaller meeting gives strong reason to expect a similar 
decision at the larger meeting which is to be held on Wednesday 
next. The members of the Committee present were, as far as 
I could hear, most moderate in their language. No heat was 
shewn, and strong admiration was expressed for your great 
abilities and fearless honesty, and also much personal respect 
and goodwill towards you. But there was a strong and universal 
feeling that, by the attitude of hostility you have taken up 
towards the Government in regard to South Africa, you have 
alienated from yourself the support of the Liberal Unionists as 
well as that of the Conservatives, and that you can no longer be 
looked upon as representing the views of the constituency in the 
House of Commons. 

To Lord St. Germans 

March lo. — I am sure you must have had great pain in writing 
yesterday's letter ; and I am afraid my reply will be no relief to 
you, as I confess I wish I could have been spared writing it. I 
do not see my way to accept the suggestion that I should at once 
resign my seat. I do not wish to break up the Liberal Unionist 
party in South-East Cornwall ; but party has never been to me 
more than machinery adopted to help to bring about certain ends. 
Just as I dissented from the Liberal party on the subject of the 
Union, so I must dissent, if necessary, from the Liberal Unionist 
party on the subject of the war. Both subjects are to me of 
paramount importance, and, as the Union is not now in peril, 
my action in respect of the war is not hampered by any thought 
of endangering the Union. Now with respect to the immediate 
question. If the more popular gathering shows anything Hke the 
same unanimity as was shewn on Thursday, the Unionist party 
is safe whatever I may do. If there should appear to be a division 
and a serious division, would not this shew that on the subject 
of the war the Unionists were not united and the balance of the 
constituency cannot be taken as so certain as suggested ? A 
General Election whenever it came would make clear what it is, 
just as the General Election of 1886 made clear what was uncertain 
in the spring of that year. On the constitutional question I feel 
that I have not only a legal right but that I am under something 
of a moral duty to retain the seat. We used to deprecate the 
introduction of the American Caucus ; but Conservatives and 
Unionists seem now the first to resort to its force and to denounce 
those who do not yield to it. In my judgment public opinion is 
the result of many influences, among which the spee;ches and 


action of Members in Parliament used to be as effective as articles 
in newspapers ; and those who have the privilege of emplo5dng 
the power without conflict with any pledge, promise or expecta- 
tion held out when they were candidates for election, ought in the 
interests of the nation to guard it most jealously. However 
disagreeable it may be to electors to think that their Member is 
supporting a poUcy from which they would themselves dissent 
and to a Member to find that his customary friends are no longer 
in agreement with him, these transitory annoyances should be 
endured in the interest of the nation at large. 

A week later the Liberal Unionist delegates of South- 
East Cornwall met at Liskeard to consider the resolution 
of the Executive Committee. Lord St. Germans, who pre- 
sided, pressed the demand for resignation ; but after the 
member's letter to the chairman had been read, an amend- 
ment was passed to the effect that, while differing on South 
Africa, the meeting saw no reason for asking him to resign 
his seat. 

When the war reached its turning-point with the sur- 
render of Cronje, Courtney's main efforts were devoted to 
opposing the inevitable demand for annexation. " The 
most dangerous and hopeless of all solutions," he wrote 
in a review of Mr. Hobson's War in South Africa (the 
Speaker, March 10), " would be the subjugation of the 
Republics, and the Government has not committed itself 
to it. A frank recognition of the invincible passion for 
self-government once more demonstrated in this war will 
allow of the slow recovery of friendly sentiments. Without 
continued autonomy there can be no guarantee of peace 
and no friendship is possible." On March 12 the Concilia- 
tion Committee addressed a protest to Lord Salisbury 
against annexation. A request for Mr. Morley's support 
was fruitless. 

From John Morley 

March 8, 1900. — I have spent my evening as I said to you 
that I would. The result is that I do not feel any caU upon me 
to commit myself at this stage to any view whatever as to future 
reconstruction. The country has flung itself into a course of 
brutality, h5^ocrisy, illusion and wrong. In my humble way I 


did my best to warn the swine of the steep place down which they 
were rushing. Let them find out their own wickedness and folly 
— as they will. Why should I waste time in urging them to 
abstain from that consummation of their crime on which every- 
body knows that they were bent, and from which they will not 
at this time be diverted, though one rose from the dead ? Any 
hour I may be moved by the spirit to go down to my constituents 
and liberate my soul to the full — ^but as to preventing the annexa- 
tion, or prescribing the true pdUcy under the existing and future 
circumstances, I should only be battering my head against a 
stone wall. That is no reason, however, why I should criticise 
others who take a different view of the practical course. 

Courtney resolved to raise the problem of the settlement 
on the Easter adjournment, and urged his old comrade to 
join him ; but he extracted nothing save a famihar and 
despairing quotation from Cobden. 

From John Morley 

April 5, 1900. — I cannot persuade myself that the moment 
requires parliamentary action, though I see nothing decisive to be 
said against it. The germs of misgiving about the whole vile 
poUcy are very visible. Every day of military suspense will tend 
to develope them. I believe time will soon be much more ripe 
for effective protest and useful discussion than now. I enclose 
you the passage of Cobden to which I referred on Tuesday : 
" You might as well reason with mad dogs as with men when 
they have begun to spiU each other's blood. I was so convinced 
during the Crimean war of the utter uselessness of raising one's 
voice in opposition to war when it has once begun, that I made 
up my mind that, so long as I was in public hfe, should a war 
again break out between England and a Great Power, I would 
never open my mouth on the subject from the time the first gun 
w£is fired until peace was made." 

Debate on the settlement was prevented by a blocking 
motion placed on the paper by a Conservative member who 
had gone off to the war. The trick was resented by Courtney 
all the more since the House had become the last refuge of 
free speech. The Press, he complained, was in great measure 
closed to the minority by the eviction of heretical editors, 
and meetings were terrorised if not prevented by organised 


rowdyism. Under these circumstances he was only able to 
direct attention to the abuses of martial law and the censor- 
ship in Cape Colony and Natal. His complaints aroused 
the fury of the Times. " If he wants to live in an intellectual 
atmosphere according to his own tastes, he ought to go to 
Pretoria. There he will find freedom of speech to his 
heart's content so long as he abstains — as no doubt he could 
abstain — from sajdng anything in favour of England." 
Debarred from debate in the House, Courtney spoke in 
great cities wherever a hall could be procured. He was 
engaged to speak in Liverpool on May 18, the day when 
the news of the reUef of Mafeking made England drunk 
with joy. It was " an unpropitious moment " for the 
delivery of his message ; but he once again declared against 
annexation as bad in policy and worse in morality. There 
was now no easy escape from the coils ; but the contrasted 
results of the Bismarck settlements of 1866 and 1871, to 
say nothing of the Irish plantations, were an eloquent 
warning. He was well aware that the plea was in vain ; 
for the annexation of territory is the seal and symbol of 
victory. Ten days later the Orange Free State was pro- 
claimed part of the British Empire with the title of the 
Orange River Colony, and on September i the Transvaal 
was annexed. 

In March the Liberal Unionists had refused by a small 
majority to demand the resignation of their representative ; 
but Lord St. Germans and his friends were stiffening in 
opposition. A new meeting was summoned at Liskeard 
in June, when a letter was read from the sitting member. 

To Lord St. Germans 

June 16. — I would ask my Liberal Unionist friends to measure 
my services in the past apart from the present war. I have 
doubtless said and done many things which have not been satis- 
factory to aU my supporters ; but I think I may claim that in 
none of them have I departed from the position of a Liberal 
Unionist, that is, a man who, opposed to Home Rule, remains 
firmly attached to the progressive Liberal faith which inspired 
the united party before Home Rule was adopted. My judgment 


of the war has been founded on study of the facts of South Africa 
consistently maintained for more than twenty years, and I have 
opposed the war because I hold it injurious to the best interests 
of South Africa and our own country. Holding this view I must 
desire as strongly to exercise any influence I have as those who are 
opposed to me may desire to nullify that influence. It would 
be a great pain to me to find friends with whom I have been so 
long and so intimately associated resolved to espouse another 
candidate. It must be a still greater pain to contest their choice. 
But however painful the prospect of the future I cannot at once 
abandon any hope of continuing to represent South-East Cornwall. 
Should another candidate be chosen, I should not underrate the 
gravity of the step ; but it would not of itself determine me to 
retreat from the constituency when an election comes. 

Lord St. Germans argued that as the Conservatives had 
resolved not to vote for Courtney, the Liberal Unionists 
could not carry him to victory. The proposition was 
incontestable, and a resolution that the Liberal Unionists 
would be unable to support him at the next election was 
carried by 42 to 6. A second resolution, " that this meeting, 
though they feel it their painful duty to withdraw their 
support from Mr. Courtney, wish to assure him of the 
personal esteem in which they hold him and of their grati- 
tude for the great services he has rendered to the Unionist 
cause," was carried unanimously. 

From Lord St. Germans 

June 17, 1900. — You will no doubt have heard from Snell the 
result of our meeting at Liskeard yesterday. He was much 
affected, poor fellow, and resigned at once. The meeting was 
very quiet and orderly, and, as far as I could hear, only friendly 
expressions were used about you personally ; but it seemed to 
be the general feeling that, at this anxious crisis, the Division 
should be represented by a Member prepared to support the 
poUcy of the Government in South Africa. Of course I cannot 
pretend to regret the decision of the meeting, but I do very 
sincerely regret that circumstances should have arisen to call 
for such a decision. 

Undeterred by rebuffs Courtney continued his campaign 
in the country. Speaking at Bradford he quoted Mr. 


Balfour's admission that we had no quarrel with the Free 
State. " I ask any one if it is not true that if gold had not 
been discovered we should have had no quarrel with the 
Transvaal and no war. We shall have to keep at least 
50,000 men permanently in South Africa to prevent the 
continual bursting out of that spirit of freedom which 
we can never stamp out." The Free State should be re- 
estabUshed. The Transvaal could be partitioned into two 
provinces, mining and agricultural, of a new State with 
large autonomy. These proposals, however, failed to 
secure the assent of all those who shared his detestation of 
the war. 

From F. C. Selous 

June 30, 1900. — My disinclination to take any further part 
in opposing the present scheme of our Government to annex the 
Transvaal and the Orange Free State arises, not from any change 
of views regarding South African affairs, but from a conviction 
that a racial enmity has been aroused by the present war of so 
intense a nature that the future will be full of the most appalling 
difficulties and dangers, no matter what settlements may ulti- 
mately be determined upon. I therefore shrink from taking part in 
any further protests against the poUcy of our Government, because 
to do so seems to me to carry with it the idea that the protester, 
if allowed a free hand, would be able to arrange a settlement in 
South Africa that would in time bring about peace and goodwill 
between the British and the Dutch Afrikanders. I have now 
personally no further hope that any form of settlement can bring 
about such a result. The annexation of the Republics I look 
upon as a gross piece of tyranny and injustice from an ethical 
point of view ; but I am not sure that things have not now been 
brought to such a pass that British supremacy in South Africa 
can only be maintained by force. That it can be maintained for 
an indefinite period by such means against the wishes of the 
majority of the inhabitants of the country I do not beUeve ; 
and, when the gold fields are exhausted, the government of the 
hinterland of South Africa must revert to the people who Uve 
there, who will be mainly, I believe, Dutch. You have always 
been consistent in your views regarding the policy which ought 
to have been pursued by Great Britain in South Africa, and as 
you are a Member of Parliament you have every right and indeed 
your position makes it incumbent upon you to give expression 
to your convictions ; but, as I am only a private individual and 


as my views are now most pessimistic concerning the future of 
South Africa, no matter what the settlement may be after the 
war, my inclination is to keep my thoughts to myself. In a 
letter which I wrote to the Speaker I pointed out some of the 
dangers which would arise from the annexation of the Orange 
Free State and the Transvaal ; one of them being that such 
annexations would make all the Dutch Afrikanders in South 
Africa disloyal to the British connection. This result has, how- 
ever, already been achieved by the vindictive policy now being 
pursued in the Cape Colony by Mr. Chamberlain and Sir Alfred 
Milner, and whether the RepubHcs are granted a hmited inde- 
pendence or not I fear that the fact must be faced that the Dutch 
throughout South Africa have been made into one people, 
animated with a deep distrust of and aversion to the British 
Government, and a bitter resentment against Sir Alfred Milner, 
its chief representative in South Africa. 

For six months the House of Commons was debarred 
from debating the deeper issues of the war and the settle- 
ment ; but on July 25 the Colonial Office vote provided an 
opportunity for majority and minority to re-state their 
case. Sir Wilfrid Lawson, whose plume ever waved in the 
thickest of the fight, moved a reduction of salary and 
passionately denounced the " horrors " that were in pro- 
gress. The scarcely less impetuous attack of Sir Robert 
Reid brought up the Colonial Secretary, who was followed 
by Mr. Lloyd George, Labouchere and Campbell-Bannerman. 
The Liberal leader dissociated himself from the unmeasured 
language of the mover, but added that he could not vote 
against the amendment, as he disapproved the policy of the 
Government. Mr. Balfour and Courtney then rose together, 
and the Leader of the House naturally took precedence. 

Courtney's speech was a virtual farewell to the Chamber 
of which he had been a member for twenty-three years. 
"It is the last occasion of this session and perhaps of this 
ParUament on which issue can be taken on South African 
policy. Though most will return, it may not be given to 
every one of us, and those who have something to say had 
better take the opportunity, even at the risk of being 
silenced for ever after." The Liberal leader, he continued, 
commanded his sympathy, almost his commiseration ; he 


was a good man struggling with adversity. " I look upon 
the Colonial Secretary as responsible for the great error of 
the war and as mainly responsible for the great error of 
pohcy which is about to crown the war." He misunder- 
stood the problem from the first, and he thought a Dutchman 
could not be loyal unless he approved his policy. " There 
are tens of thousands of loyal Dutch, and you are alienating 
them." The Government had announced that the Re- 
publics were to become Crown colonies after the period of 
military occupation ; but Campbell-Bannerman was right 
in protesting against such a transitional stage. MiUtary 
occupation was essentially provisional, while Crown colony 
government had a tendency to last. " I am asked what is 
the alternative to annexation ? What prevents the recon- 
struction of these States with a greater or less degree of 
freedom, involving disarmament and a partial reorganisation 
of the Rand, but leaving a substantially free government to 
the Free State and at least to the pastoral portion of the 
Transvaal ? I do not say it is certain to succeed, after 
this year of warfare. You will have need of the best head 
and the best heart you can send out, for it is mainly a 
question of temper. Some men who admit that annexation 
is wrong still say it is inevitable because the British people 
are determined on it. But it is a patriot's part, when he 
sees a pohcy being adopted which he beUeves to be wrong 
now and full of injury for the future, to say so and to 
try to alter the temper of his fellow-coimtrymen." Sir 
Edward Grey, who followed, paid a generous tribute to 
the speaker, "who never intervenes without raising the tone 
of the debate," and once again announced his support of 
the Government. All pretence of Liberal unity was now 
abandoned. Forty Liberals voted with the Government, 
thirty-one with Sir Wilfrid Lawson, while Campbell-Banner- 
man and thirty-five followers walked out. The result was 
a virtual invitation to the Government to spring a khaki 
election on the country at the earliest opportmiity. 

Courtney's speech was applauded by friends and fellow- 
members, many of whom guessed that it would be his last 
utterance in the House of Commons. 


From Sir Henry Campbell Bannetman 

My dear Courtney, — One line of admiration and sympathy 
for your splendid speech yesterday. — Yours always, 

H. C.-B. 

From Frederic Harrison {to Mrs. Courtney) 

July 27, 1900. — I congratulate you on the fine speech our 
leader made in the debate — one worthy of so momentous an 
occasion and of him. I fear that it is the last fully reported 
speech the great public will be able to read before what seems 
the inevitable collapse of the Republics and perhaps the extinction 
of the Liberal party. The prospect opened by the debate and 
division taken as a whole, and still more by the ominous article 
in the Times to-day, seems most depressing for any future good. 
For the immediate future, I would say. For, even if the cause of 
right is silenced for a time — and the prospects of an October dis- 
solution are dark enough — I will never believe that this defeat is 
final. I am as certain of the return of good sense to Englishmen 
as I am of the ultimate independence of the Dutch Afrikanders. 
As Olive Schreiner is reported to have said, whilst five thousand 
Dutch women survive the race can never be crushed. It may 
indeed take a generation to restore the free Ufe of the Dutch 
farmer ; and perhaps few of us will Uve to see it. But the 
revulsion of British feeling against the Rhodesian conspiracy will 
take place I am confident within a year or two at most. And 
even if the next Parliament (destined to be very short and very 
disorganised) have a record of brute force to its account, I look 
forward confidently to see Mr. Courtney form a determined party 
either in or out of the House, and recognised, within at most a 
generation, as the leader of the true Liberals who will not see 
England turned into a Napoleonic empire. 

After the Liskeard meeting of June, Sir Lewis Molesworth, 
grandson of the famous Colonial Secretary, was selected as 
the Unionist candidate ; but a good many electors who had 
followed Courtney since 1886 were anxious to retain his 
services and suggested reunion with the Liberals for that 
purpose. A joint meeting was accordingly held at Liskeard, 
where a letter reiterating his Liberal faith Wcis read from 
the sitting member. 


To the Chairman 

I have just seen a letter asking some friends to meet together 
on Saturday next which has surprised no less than gratified me. 
I have opposed Home Rule, but I claim never to have ceased to 
be a Liberal. Home Rule is not at present an issue before the 
nation ; and Home Rule apart I have persistently endeavoured 
to establish unity of feeling between Ireland and the rest of the 
United Kingdom, while I have withstood partial or class legisla- 
tion at home, and have striven to maintain in relation to foreign 
nations that friendly and equitable temper which is indispensable 
to peace and domestic progress. It has been a matter of accusa- 
tion against me that I have repeatedly opposed the present 
Government ; but if the occasions of my opposition be examined, 
it will be found that I could not have acted otherwise without 
abandoning my deepest Liberal convictions. The situation, 
however, has been not infrequently irksome, and I should feel a 
great sense of relief if the separating Hue of Home Rule were 
forgotten and we were once more as we were before 1886. It 
would be idle to close this letter without reference to the present 
war. I have never questioned the imperfections of the Govern- 
ment of the Transvaal ; but I have looked for their removal 
through peaceful means, and have strongly opposed an irritating 
and menacing diplomacy, bringing us to the brink of war. The 
first act of hostilities was indeed taken by the Boers, and it was 
necessary to repel it ; but this has now been successfully accom- 
plished. The policy of leaving no shred of independence to 
either Republic seems to me of the worst promise for the future. 
No choice is easy ; but with a return of a sober and more peaceful 
temper I am persuaded that a settlement could be effected that 
might allow the memory of the evils of the last ten months to 
be forgotten. 

The great majority of Liberals refused to vote for a 
Unionist, and on September 5 invited Alderman Snape 
of Liverpool, who had sat in Parliament from 1892 to 
1895, to stand as " a bona fide Liberal." The decision 
was no surprise to Courtney, though it meant that he 
would not stand again for South-East Cornwall. The 
news reached him in Scotland, where he was spending 
the hoUdays. 


To Mr. Dyer, of Liskeard 

September 7. — I have just received the report of Wednesday's 
meeting. I am afraid you will have been disappointed by the 
scant attention paid to your appeal for Liberal unity. I am not 
sure that in the present destruction of parties a bold declaration 
that I should appeal to the electorate might not prove successful ; 
and the step might be justified, apart from possible success, as a 
means of testing the true opinion of the division. But I cannot 
persuade myself to take this course ; for the contest would be 
extremely painful to me personally. If I do not at once retire 
from South-East Cornwall, it is because the situation is not even 
yet formally defined. Mr. Snape has been invited by the Liberal 
Committee to contest the division, and has taken time to consider 
his decision. His grasp of the situation in South Africa is not 
mine ; but he leans towards the right, and his judgment, hke that 
of the nation, may grow clearer and stronger through further 
experience. On the subjects now thrown into the background 
he seems fitted to unite Liberal supporters of all kinds. 

On September 18 Parliament was dissolved and Courtney 
issued a farewell message to his supporters and friends. 

To his Constituents 

A dissolution is officially announced, and it is surely not 
unbecoming that I should address you a few words of farewell. 
I must confess that the severance of ties so long subsisting is 
painful ; but I cannot challenge the right of electors to withdraw 
their support from one whose opinion on the great question of the 
hour is not that approved by the majority. History will deter- 
mine what is the right judgment to be passed on the South 
African conflict ; but for the present I must admit that I am 
out- voted. I am conscious that my long experience as your 
member has been characterised by an independence, the tolerance 
of which on your part has been unprecedented and magnanimous ; 
and for this forbearance and support I offer you my sincerest 
thanks. Through it alone have I been enabled to achieve such 
services as I have rendered. What I have written is due to all 
of you ; but I cannot conclude without adding a word of thanks 
to that great company of friends whose private kindnesses have 
been as signal as the support they have pubHcly given me. I 
shall ever retain a most grateful memory of the friendship and 
goodwill I have so long enjoyed. 


The election ran its expected course, and the electors 
were duly informed that every vote for a Liberal was a vote 
for the Boers. 


September 24. — We are completely and entirely out of it. 
My great man is in splendid isolation. To Ripon to stay at 
Studley Royal. We were met by telegrams, and telegrams 
continued for the two days we were there, mostly from various 
hopeless constituencies, suggesting he should stand. Two 
requests for a speech from Exeter and Battersea, which we 
acceded to after some hesitation. 

Courtney received an enthusiastic welcome at Battersea, 
where John Bums, who had fearlessly denounced the war in 
Sunday meetings in Battersea Park, increased his majority ; 
and he rejoiced that despite a Unionist majority of 134 all 
the leading Liberal opponents of the war came safely through 
the fiery ordeal. His own fate had been so long determined 
in advance that he bore the blow without flinching. 

To Sir John Scott 

October 3. — I got your sjonpathetic letter from Bad Nauheim 
last week. I told you more than a year ago that I should lose 
my seat over this business, and I have really no reason to com- 
plain of what has happened. Our electoral system is absurd 
enough in not providing the House of Commons with the assist- 
ance of opinions however widely held which do not command 
local majorities ; but as long as you simply ask the electors of a 
particular area what is the opinion of the majority within it, 
you cannot quarrel with them for giving a straightforward answer 
to the question. 

To John Morley 

October 26. — A congratulation on your election goes without 
saying. Your return without visiting your constituents was one 
of the best episodes of the struggle, and your two letters were 
perhaps of more use to the country at large than speeches would 
have been. The General Election has very emphatically enforced 
my old moral that our representative system does the nation 
great harm in excluding from the Great Council the voices of 

414 LIFE OF LORD COURTNEY chap, xvm 

minorities not feeble in numbers and strong in conviction, but 
yet failing to pick up a majority in any enclosed area. But in 
answer to suggestions that I might underline this truth I have 
felt that any such utterance on my part would be counted the 
squeal of a pig run over by a wheel. Indeed I think people are 
beginning to realise this truth, even you yourself, and may if left 
to themselves see that what they have disregarded as a mere 
alteration of machinery is a liberation of life. 

Old Parliamentary comrades in the fight against 
Imperialism mourned his exclusion, and endeavoured to 
comfort themselves with the hope that his absence from 
St. Stephen's would be brief. 

From James Bryce 

Since the polling at Aberdeen I have been travelling about 
speaking for divers friends, and so have only now found a quiet 
time to thank you for your very kind letter. It gave great 
pleasure to both of us. Scotland has had the fever almost as 
acutely as England. Everj^where in the Eastern constituencies 
from eight to twelve per cent of our voters have gone over on the 
war. On the West side the percentage has been larger. The 
hopeful fact is that those who, hke T. Shaw and R. T. Reid and 
Sinclair, have been opposed to war right through have fared quite 
as well as those who feared to speak or fell in with the popular 
clamour. The great mistake was made in October 1899. If all 
those who then saw that the war was a gratuitous and deplorable 
blunder had gone straight to their constituents and said so, giving 
them abundance of facts and arguments, we should never have 
had the subsequent debacle. There might have been an open 
split in the Liberal party. But that would have been better than 
what has happened. Four-fifths of the party would have stood 
committed against the war ; and its tone and sense of honour 
would have been far better. Nor is it clear that the risk of an 
open and permanent split is over. We may have another 25th 
of July if the reaction does not set in soon ; and whatever the 
so -called Imperialist Liberals may desire, they practically 
strengthen Chamberlain. I can't tell you how grieved we are 
not to have you in the House of Commons, nor how great a 
misfortune we think it for the country. I do hope some means 
may be found for your soon returning. 



Courtney's compulsory withdrawal from Parliament made 
at first but little immediate difference in his life, for owing 
to blocking motions the opportunities of speaking at West- 
minster on South African affairs had been rare. Herbert 
Spencer wrote to suggest that he should devote a part of his 
leisure to writing a book entitled How we came by our Pos- 
sessions ; but he preferred to continue his frontal attacks. 
The ratification of Ministerial policy at the election, however, 
was not encouraging to active propaganda. 

To Mr. Sturge 

October lo, 1900. — It may be desirable that we should all 
maintain a kind of suspended vitality; for though there is 
nothing definite to be done at the moment there is much to be 
watched, and a situation requiring some declaration if nothing 
more might be very rapidly developed. On the whole I am 
inclined to think that this is the best attitude to assume ; but 
an alternative is the union if possible of all the forces that have 
been working side by side against this war into an organisation 
against militarism, which might be briefly and eloquently 
described as an anti-jingo union. I am, however, disposed to 
feel with respect to this that it might be the creation of yet 
another society working in a cloud of generalities which would 
presently be shewn to cover every grade of activity or inactivity 
such as the Peace and Arbitration Societies and the Society of 
Friends include. What indeed could we hope from our Anti- 
Jingo Union when the Christian Church, which ought long 
since to have realised and always to have maintained this social 



purpose, has been and is such as we know it ? This last view 
you may perhaps regard as personal to myself, to whom most 
organisations appear as bodies founded for the painless extinction 
of the ideas of their founders. 

His view of the task awaiting the opponents of the war 
was generally shared by his comrades in arms. 

From James Bryce 

October 22, 1900. — It is unluckily impossible for me to come 
to town on Wednesday for the Concihation Committee meeting 
as I have engagements here. So far as I can judge there are 
only two things the Committee can now do. One is to continue 
to try to enUghten the pubUc regarding the truth of the case 
in South Africa. It is astonishing how even inteUigent people 
are still under delusions, such as the " great Dutch conspiracy," 
the arming of the Transvaal since 1881, etc. To remove these 
delusions so far as possible, if people will consent to listen to 
arguments on what they are coming to regard as chose jugee, 
would accelerate the reaction which may otherwise come too 
late. The other is to watch current events, and particularly 
the resettlement and the appointments made in the conquered 
States. I confess to seeing no present alternative to Crown 
Colony Government except a provisional miUtary government. 
Mihtary indeed any government must needs be for a time ; 
and to estabUsh one under a good miUtary man with some sensible 
civil assistants from home, not South African EngHsh, seems to 
me better than the mockery of a quasi-representative government 
which a Crown Colony would mean. , 

During the second period of the war, which may be said 
to have begun with the annexation of the Republics, the 
stubborn resistance of the Boers, prolonged beyond all 
expectation, produced a growing exasperation of feeling and 
a resort to ever harsher measures, wrathfuUy described by 
the Leader of the Opposition as " methods of barbarism." 
A long communication was sent by the Conciliation Com- 
mittee to the Prime Minister, entitled " A plain statement 
of the change that has come over the war in South Africa," 
containing details of the farm-burning and systematic 
devastation which were designed to starve the enemy into 


surrender. The reply was to the effect that the British 
Commander-in-Chief had paid too much, not too httle, 
attention to the call of humanity. In the pohtical field 
Courtney saw no hope for South Africa so long as the High 
Commissioner was in control ; and he suggested by tongue 
and pen that he should be appointed Governor-General of 
the new Commonwealth of Australia. The announcement 
that he was to add the Governorship of the Transvaal to his 
other duties filled him with despair. " It is incredible," he 
wrote in the Speaker (December 15), " that Mr. Chamberlain 
should hope for reconcihation under such auspices. He will 
not confess it, but he is far too clever not to know that Sir 
Alfred's handhng of South African problems has been a 
ghastly failure." At this period, however, the Colonial 
Secretary's mind was bent not on reconcihation but on 


December 17. — Though L. is out of Parliament we hear 
almost more of its ins and outs than ever, M.P.'s calling and 
writing for advice. Channing on Sunday. Meets C.-B. at 
lunch at Buchanan's. So my old prophet is still wanted. Yet 
though they may talk bravely and he may answer wisely, it all 
comes to naught. 

Christinas Eve. — We had a sudden invitation to dine with 
the Morleys. It was his birthday. He seemed his old self ; 
weU, if a little hoarse. He astonished us by saying he was 
going to stay with Chamberlain. His feeling is that nothing 
can be done at present and that wicked as the war has been — 
" the crime of this generation " — he can see no solution but 
subjugation of the Boers. 

Though Courtney's political attitude during the war 
naturally brought him into contact with those who shared 
his detestation of the struggle, he was often in the company 
of men who, like his fellow-members of the Breakfast Club 
and his brothers-in-law, took the majority view. At the 
Old Masters' Exhibition an old constituent left the room in 
order to avoid shaking hands ; but this example of intoler- 
ance was happily unique. Among the visitors to Cheyne 
Walk were prominent Ministers. 




January 1901. — Gerald Balfour invites himself to lunch. 
Very friendly. He says he wishes there were more men like L. 
in the House. 

Sir Michael Hicks-Beach dines with us. He remarks he has 
been eighteen years in office and is sick and tired of it. I said, 
You feel like the Duke of Devonshire in the 1880 Government 
who, writing to Lord Spencer about a horse, put in a P.S. — 
When will this beastly Government go out ? Sir Michael 
laughed and said. That is exactly how I feel. 

At this moment, when the skies were filled with storm- 
clouds, the state of Courtney's heart began to cause dis- 
comfort to himself and acute anxiety to his wife. The first 
symptoms occurred while he was attending the meeting of 
the Privy Council at St. James's Palace to hear the new King 
take the oath, and to swear allegiance to him. 


January 26, 1901. — Black day and sleepless night. He 
seemed so strong and full of vigour. Is this notice to quit or 
a gentle hint that at sixty-eight a man is mortal ? 

February 3. — Barlow came and made a very careful examina- 
tion. L. has a serious affection of the heart, not dangerous, 
but necessitating a change of habits, no walking uphiU, only 
once or twice a day upstairs, poUtical meetings not at present 
if ever again, put up his legs as much as convenient. Barlow 
added that there was plenty of work in him yet. Still it is a 
great blow. It is hard to have to stand aside and watch our 
friends striving, with none of the leaders ready to lead. 

Happily the disquieting symptoms of the heart proved 
to be due rather to blood pressure than to weakness, and 
medical treatment gradually enabled him to recover his 
walking powers. Though for some months he felt a certain 
" insecurity of tenure," he insisted on carrying out his 
engagements, among them the delivery of his Presidential 
Address to the Social and Political Education League on 
" The Making and Reading of Newspapers." ^ " Having 

^ Published in the Contemporary Review. 



known something of both worlds," he began, " I say it is as 
easy and as common to be honest in Fleet Street as at West- 
minster." The difficulty was rather to be fair than to be 
honest. There was an irresistible temptation to writers to 
magnify the importance of the hour, and to overlook its 
relation to past and future, while readers were in danger of 
forgetting that a paper was no more than the voice of a 
single individual. He exhorted his hearers to read some 
paper opposed to their views, or, if that was asking too 
much, to study their own journal in a critical spirit. The 
moral of the address was contained in its closing reflections. 
" Nearly all the papers were wrong about the American 
Civil War. We are as falUble to-day as we were then. It 
is a thought to make every man cautious, and yet bold 
and patient. He may be wrong ; but though there are a 
thousand against him he may be right, and the odds he 
has to meet do not exactly increase with the number of 
his opponents." 

Early in the new year the Concihation Committee 
pubhshed as its sixty-fifth leaflet a letter by Lieutenant 
Morrison, a Canadian volunteer, describing the burning of 
farms and villages, and expressing pity and regret. The 
document had appeared in the Manchester Guardian, which 
had copied it from the New York Sun. The letter had every 
appearance of being complete ; but it afterwards appeared 
that the original was twice as long, and that the unpublished 
passages justified the policy of devastation. The Ministerial 
Press naturally took full advantage of the slip, falhng on 
the peccant Committee and its Chairman with exultant 
violence. One paper spoke of the leaflet as a gross hbel. 
The only libel, however, was to have believed that the young 
officer had felt more repugnance to his handiwork than was 
the case ; for the facts were not challenged, and the Com- 
mittee at once published the whole letter side by side with 
the first version. Leading members of the Committee were 
favoured with anonymous letters of abuse, among them 
Selous, who had already expressed a wish to resign his 
position as Vice-President on the ground that its efforts were 


From F. C. Selous 

March g. — Since last writing to you I have read the full 
account of the meeting of the S.A.C.C. at the Westminster 
Palace Hotel on February 28. Your speech was most admirable, 
and I only hope that your wise counsels will be supported by the 
leaders of the Liberal party in Parhament. Personally I fear 
that whatever the settlement may be after the war is over, the 
Boers will not forget nor forgive the destruction of their nation- 
ality and the unjust annexation of their countries, and I can 
see little hope of true peace and concord in South Africa. It 
is because I feel that aU hope of reconciUation between the 
British and the Dutch in South Africa is now hopeless and must 
remain so for at least another generation that I wish to withdraw. 
It now lies with the Liberal party in Parliament to see that the 
Boers are treated with elementary justice after the war ; but 
even just government by an alien and now detested people, and 
a greater amount of generosity than there is any reason to hope 
for, cannot bring about contentment and reconciliation for a long 
time to come. It seems to me that by remaining Vice-President 
of the S.A.C.C. I arrogate to myself the pretension of being able 
to formulate some scheme that would bring peace and content- 
ment to South Africa. All such hope passed when terms of 
peace were refused after the occupation of Pretoria, and the 
Government and people of this country declared their resolve 
to do away with every shred of independence in either of the 
Boer Republics. I am now hopeless for the future and wish to 
retire into the " silence of despair." I will, however, defer my 
resignation till such time as suits your convenience. 

Undeterred by the shrill anger of the Press, and the 
pessimism of his friends, Courtney continued to seek and to 
urge some other method than unconditional surrender for 
ending the war. " We agree in desiring to find some 
honourable way out of the present situation," he wrote to 
the Times on January 15. " Our hard-tried soldiers are 
weary of the war. As for the enemy, he is wearing out his 
numbers. Cannot we settle the dispute by better means 
than that of exhaustion ? You say we want British 
supremacy throughout South Africa in a fashion to secure 
equal justice to all white inhabitants and to prevent a 
recurrence of the contest. These ends would apparently 
be secured if the control of foreign relations were vested 


exclusively in the British Government, if disarmament were 
effected, and if it could be ensured that in no part should 
there be any discrimination in law or administration as 
against British or Boer. Whatever the settlement, a sub- 
stantial British force must be maintained for some time 
in Africa. If the country could be divided into autonomous 
provinces, this force could prevent any abuse of autonomy 
which would invaUdate the condition of equal rights. 
Suppose the Orange River territory were at once autonom- 
ous, what mischief could it do which could not be instantane- 
ously checked ? If the Transvaal were separated into two 
parts so as to keep the mining population of the Rand away 
from the pastoral burghers, the risk of discriminating 
legislation would be so diminished that the power of check- 
ing any action in that direction would be easy. Is this 
an impossible dream ? In Canada a French province is 
autonomous, and it is hoped that by and by Boer provinces 
may be equally autonomous. What is the substantial risk 
in offering to try this experiment at once ? The control of 
the customs duties of South Africa would be vested in the 
supreme power, the proceeds being apportioned among the 
ports. The gist of my suggestion is to let self -organised 
communities govern themselves at once, subject to certain 
conditions for securing peace and equaUty which can be 
enforced at once if disregarded. Risk must be run in any 
case. Would those we are fighting consent to such pro- 
vincial freedom ? I do not know. The question of practic- 
ability can be tested only by experiment. An armistice 
might be necessary. With fit men the problem could be 
solved. It is here that I touch the main difficulty of the 
situation and it is here I stop." 

The " main difficulty " of the situation was irremovable ; 
for the Colonial Secretary had received an emphatic vote of 
confidence at the General Election, and the High Com- 
missioner enjoyed his ungrudging support. A mission to 
England from Cape Colony consisting of Mr. Merriman, 
the most brilliant politician in South Africa, and Mr. Sauer, 
a leading Dutch member of the Schreiner Ministry, failed 
to deflect Chamberlain's course by a hair's breadth. 


From J. X. Merriman 

February 19, 1901. — I had my interview with Chamberlain 
yesterday. It — I will not say disappointed, for I did not expect 
much — astonished me a great deal to find him with such a slight 
grip of the details of South African affairs and of Colonial history. 
He must be a robust Imperialist whose faith would survive an 
hour's discussion with him on the business of the Empire. We 
had an hour and a half and travelled over much ground. The 
impression left on my mind was that he was entirely saturated 
with the British loyahst view as conveyed by Milner, and that 
he regarded a Crown Colony as a panacea for the ruin he has 
brought on South Africa. Otherwise, though chiUing, he was 
perfectly pohte, as indeed it was his duty to be. 

From J. W. Sauer {to Mrs. Courtney) 

The interview with Mr. Chamberlain came off yesterday, 
and gave as I anticipated Uttle hope for an amehoration of the 
state of things in my unhappy country. As I Mstened to Mr. 
Chamberlain it was clear that a continuance of the spirit dis- 
played by him will lead to the severance of the ties between 
England and South Africa in time. He has no sympathy, and 
he entirely lacks the necessary imagination for a man at a 
distance to understand the Dutch. They will not submit one 
day longer than necessity compels to military or Downing 
Street rule, and they will sacrifice what is even more than their 
lives to hve as free men. 

The delegates made a prolonged stay, addressed a few 
meetings, and discussed the situation with aU the leading 
opponents of the war. 


February 12. — Men's dinner — Merriman, Herbert Paul, 
Lloyd George, Sir Alfred Lyall, Channing, Edmund Robertson, 

February 20. — Merriman and Sauer, Bryce, C. P. Scott, etc., 
dine. Mr. Sauer impresses us a good deal. He is so earnest, 
simple and direct. Speaks pathetically of his people and their 
character and yet with regretful affection of their and his feeling 


about England and the Queen in the past. He told us Steyn 
was a noble fellow. An English friend had met him coming out 
of the Raad when the decision was taken to throw in the lot of 
the Free State with the Transvaal. Steyn said : " We have 
decided to abide by our treaty. This wiU be the last time we 
shall meet, but we must fight." 

On June 12 a public dinner was given to the Afrikander 
statesmen, at which Edmund Robertson presided, and 
Courtney fervently denounced the High Commissioner's 
inability to understand his foes' passionate attachment to 
their national life. " To the records of Greece, Switzerland 
and Holland must be added, by those who desire their 
children to know what it is to fight and to suffer for the 
cause of manhood and liberty, the story of the Republics 
of South Africa." The next evening a reception was held 
at Che3me Walk to meet Mr. Merriman and Mr. Sauer, and 
among the guests were Campbell-Bannerman and Lord and 
Lady Aberdeen. A week or two later Courtney's sixty- 
ninth birthday brought tributes of affection and admiration 
from old colleagues and friends. 

From Lord Ripon 

July 6. — ^The Daily News tells me that this is your birthday. 
I hasten to offer you my best wishes. You have set your 
countrymen such a noble example of courage and self-sacrifice 
that every lover of high principle in public hfe must heartily 
pray that your hfe may be preserved for many returns of 
this day. 

Courtney's courage and disinterestedness were as fully 
recognised by Liberal Imperialists as by " Little Englanders," 
and his personal relations with their leaders remained 
friendly. He declared in a speech that while Sir Edward 
Grey's attitude on South Africa filled him with grief, he 
never thought of him without esteem and even affection. 
His sentiments were fully reciprocated by the most un- 
compromising Liberal champion of the High Commissioner 
and his policy. 


From Sir Edward Grey 

March 15, 1901. — I would very gladly have come to see you, 
but I am on my way in the opposite direction and shaU not be 
in London before the 25th. I had hoped to come to see you 
after the session began, if only to express my very sincere regret 
that you are not still in the House. We were often on opposite 
sides, but I always liked listening to your speeches and felt the 
better for them and I shall miss them now. One mind may 
owe much to another without being able to pay its debt by 
accepting the other's opinion on a particular question, and that 
has been my case more than once. As regards the immediate 
future the practical difference of opinion seems likely to be the 
wisdom or otherwise of making Milner the administrator of the 
Transvaal and Orange State. The estimate of him must vary 
according to the view taken of the cause of the war. I have 
accepted Milner's view of the situation in South Africa before 
the war and should support his position now ; you must hold 
a contrary opinion, but I should be very glad to talk about it. 

Differences in the Liberal party in regard not only to 
concrete problems of poUcy but to the underlpng philosophy 
of empire had been felt long before the war. Friction arose 
over Uganda during Lord Rosebery's tenure of office ; and 
in his speech at Edinburgh in 1896 resigning the leadership 
of the party the ex-Premier singled out certain of his col- 
leagues for praise, while others, imnamed but not unknown, 
were censured by implication. Two years later Sir William 
Harcourt, his disillusioned successor, followed his example, 
complaining bitterly of the cross-currents which rendered 
his position untenable. During the winter of 1898 Mr. 
Morley publicly lamented that the virus of Imperialism had 
infected some of his political friends ; and the reconquest of 
the Sudan was simultaneously blessed and banned from the 
Front Opposition Bench. As the storm-clouds began to 
gather in South Africa in the spring of 1899 the cleavage 
deepened, and on the outbreak of war all pretence of united 
thought and action was cast aside. Followers of the 
Gladstonian tradition rallied round the banner of Campbell- 
Bannerman, and the Imperialists turned wistful glances 
towards Ajax in his tent. While the two sections thus 


wrestled for its soul the Liberal party was for practical 
purposes out of action, and qualified and unqualified 
practitioners came forward with suggestions to heal its 
sickness. When the Liberal leader denounced the farm- 
biunings and other " methods of barbarism," and Mr. 
Morley asserted that he and his friends represented the 
main stream of Liberalism, Mr. Asquith vigorously pro- 
tested against excommunication at a banquet to the Essex 
Liberals on June 20, 1901, and claimed a place for Liberal 
Imperialism in the counsels of the party. On July 2 
Campbell-Bannerman, speaking at Southampton, confessed 
that the party was in a critical position. An attempt to 
throw a bridge across the gulf was made at a meeting held 
at the Reform Club on July 9, when the Imperialists ex- 
pressed their desire to avoid a permanent spht while claiming 
their right to the unfettered expression of opinion. 

The Reform Club concordat merely plastered the gaping 
wound, and the bandages were roughly torn off a few days 
later by Lord Rosebery, who responded to a request from 
the City Liberal Club for his opinion by a letter published 
in the Times on July 17. " The Opposition has met and 
united or reunited on the double basis of a hearty and un- 
disputed allegiance to its leader and a complete liberty of 
action with regard to the one vital question before the 
country. The Liberal party can only become a power 
when it has made up its mind on Imperial questions. The 
whole Empire has rallied to the war. What is the attitude 
of the Liberal party ? Neutrality and an open mind. This 
is an impossible attitude and only spells Liberal impotence. 
Either the war is just or unjust, either the methods are un- 
civilised or legitimate. In the first case it should be stopped 
at any cost, in the second it is our duty to support it with 
all our might. These are supreme issues ; none greater 
ever divided two hostile parties. How then can one party 
agree to differ on them ? It is urged that this is a transient 
difference. I do not think so. Fox opposed the war with 
France, spht his party and excluded it from power for forty 
years. Statesmen who dissociate themselves from the 
nation in a great national question dissociate themselves 


for much longer than they think. That is a consideration 
which should not weigh one instant against conviction ; 
but it should not be forgotten by politicians who do not 
desire to see the Government fall permanently into the 
hands of their opponents and the indefinite postponement 
of their own domestic pohcy. The severance is not simply 
on the war, but a sincere, fundamental and incurable 
antagonism of principle with regard to the Empire. One 
school, blind as I think to the developments of the world, 
is avowedly insular ; the other places as the first article of 
its creed the responsibilities and maintenance of our free 
and beneficent Empire. This is not the fault of any leader. 
It could not perhaps have been avoided, and it cannot now 
be healed by a party meeting. One school or other must 
prevail if the Liberal party is once more to become a force." 
Among the commentators on this manifesto was Courtney, 
who, though not a member of the party, was increasingly 
interested in its fortunes. " I agree in recognising the 
existence of two irreconcilable schools of opinion, but I 
should let the struggle work itself out. Lord Rosebery 
points to Fox as clinching his argument, since his opposition 
to the French war broke up his party for more than a 
generation. He does not ask whether he was right or 
wrong. Why does he not refer to Burke's action during 
the American war ? . What has he got to say about the 
conduct of Cobden and Bright during the Crimean war ? 
The Prime Minister has avowed his beUef that the Crimean 
war was a blunder. Lord Rosebery leaves us without a 
clue to discover what he would think of their action in 
trying to save their countr5niien from such a blunder. I 
do not think I Wrong him in saying that he has been fascin- 
ated by the gUtter of Bismarck's principles, and looks to 
agglomerations of territory kept together by military force 
as the highest achievement of statesmanship. The Liberal 
ImperiaUst walks about in Bismarck's old clothes. He 
wants to spread the domination of his race over wider areas 
and to bind the whole in links of iron which, while keeping 
inferior races in subjection, must fetter the freedom of the 
dominant race itself. Against this the older faith must 


challenge comparison. The dim masses of the nations do 
not seem to have thoroughly accepted the pohcies of 
Imperialism. Social democracy in Germany is a force 
that must be counted. In Belgium the King may develop 
his Congo estate, but the workmen over whom he rules are 
not attracted by it. The moving force in Italy is steady 
against expansion. It is confessed by many Republicans 
that if Bryanism had been divorced from silver at the last 
election it might have won. All the Parliamentary repre- 
sentatives of our own working men are anti-Imperiahst. 
These things might make Lord Rosebery pause. History 
alone will settle which principle is the right one to inspire 
the Liberal party and to give guidance to the nation." 

The ex-Premier, who had claimed and exercised the 
right of plain speaking, had no fault to find with the frank- 
ness of his critic ; but he denied that his ideals of Empire 
were Bismarckian, and referred to his Rectorial Address at 
Glasgow in the previous year. As it chanced Courtney had 
read the address at the time of its publication, and had 
dictated a long open letter to its author. " Not the 
satisfaction of duty but the maintenance of power is the 
cry of your appeal. What moves you is the apprehension 
of attack. You remind me of the Priest of Nemi who keeps 
watch and ward over his temple, weapon in hand to confront 
the attacks of successive assailants, one of whom will some 
day kill him as he killed his predecessor, only to succeed to 
the same armed watchfulness and the same inevitable fate. 
Your true temper is shewn when you bend before the 
Romans of old and the Prussians of to-day. Referring to 
the victorious progress of Prussia in 1864 and the following 
years you ask ' Can there be a clearer instance of the build- 
ing up of a Power by vigilant care ? ' That we may under- 
stand what this building up means you call attention to the 
fact how ' with the aid of trained, able servants not afraid 
to face heroic measures,' she emerged more puissant than 
before. What were the heroic measures of which her able 
servants were not afraid ? I can discover no other meaning 
than that you admire the power which trampled upon 
Parliamentary independence, maintaining and developing 


an army by a Minister supported by his King in defiance of 
the representatives of his people. There are some who will 
think that the unity of Germany, established for the moment 
in 1848, and certain to reappear, had a premature deUvery 
at too heavy a price and in less promising guise under the 
arbitrary statecraft of Bismarck, which you tend to glorify. 
You forget that under the imposing appearance of Imperial 
strength there is an ever-growing popular discontent which 
has gained the mastery of aU the chief cities of the Empire." 
The letter, though never pubUshed, was sent to Lord Rose- 
bery, who took the criticism in good part, while pleading 
not guilty to some of the offences with which he was 

The war severed Courtney's official connection with the 
Unionist party and turned his bark towards the Liberal 
shore. He was still opposed to Home Rule ; but the 
supreme issue before the country was no longer the defence 
of the Union but the restoration of peace in South Africa. 
Though ImperiaUsm had made converts of some of the 
Liberal chiefs, the Leader of the Opposition and the majority 
of his colleagues stood firmly by the Gladstonian tradition, 
and it was they alone who could be expected in happier 
days to bind up the wounds of war. In responding to the 
toast of " The Liberal Cause " at the Oxford Palmerston 
Club on November 30, he pointed out that the Liberal 
cause was by no means the same thing as the Liberal party. 
" The Liberal cause cannot perish unless the aspirations of 
hmnan nature cease." He proceeded to test the situation 
in South Africa by Liberal principles. " It becomes the 
duty of Liberals to ask themselves over and over again. Is 
this thing necessary ? Is this position defensible ? How 
have we got into it ? Is there any way out of it ? The 
national character becomes demoralised in the struggle. 
The burning of farms has aggravated resistance, the con- 
centration camps have made the enemy more bitter than 
ever, and the public executions have developed in Cape 
Colony a spirit of antagonism which did not exist at the 
commencement of the war. The proclamation of August 
banishing the Boer leaders who did not lay down their arms 



by September 15 is now seen to be folly. Annexation is 
regarded as irrevocable. But the effacement of two free 
peoples must be odious to every Liberal, and is an excessive 
punishment on any estimate of the guilt, and will bring on 
those who come after us endless trouble. The war should be 
ended by discussion, and the treaty of peace should include 
disarmament and a customs union." 

The Liberals of South-East Cornwall had refused to 
invite Courtney to stand at the election of 1900 ; but their 
beating taught many of them to beUeve that he was more 
likely to win the seat than a stranger who was sound on 
Home Rule. In March 1901 he was informally sounded 
by the Liberal Association of West Cornwall, and sent a 
negative reply. In December an invitation from the 
Liberals of his old constituency to address them with a 
view to his adoption as Liberal candidate was hkewise 

To the Liberal Agent 

December 18, 190 1. — I have received your letter with much 
gratification. It would be a singular honour to be connected 
once more with the division. I must, however, be excused from 
accepting the invitation. I observe that it is not unanimous 
and that it is limited to a desire to hear my political views with 
a view to being adopted as a candidate. I may perhaps be 
allowed to say that my political views in general and more 
especially in connection with the present war must be intimately 
known throughout the constituency. Apart, however, from 
these considerations, I should not be justified in accepting the 
burden of candidature which would probably last many years. 
Had I no other calls upon me, few would be surprised that I 
should shrink from such a prolonged strain on my strength 
and energies. But indeed appUcations come upon me 
almost daily from different parts of the country for speech 
and action, and I conclude, not without reluctance, that a 
rigid economy of my time and strength compels me to put 
aside your invitation. 

During the winter of 1901 Courtney's health had so much 
improved that he was able to address pubHc meetings without 
undue fatigue. His two main themes were the folly of 


" short cuts to success " and the necessity of a negotiated 
peace. The majority still demanded unconditional sur- 
render ; but as the war dragged on a growing number of its 
supporters began to hope that it might be terminated by a 
formal or informal discussion of the terms of submission. 
The cleavage of opinion extended to the highest quarters, 
though unknown to the public ; for the Colonial Secretary 
and the High Commissioner, who had always dishked the 
pohcy of devastation, stood out for unconditional surrender, 
while its author. Lord Kitchener, desired to shorten the 
struggle by the offer of tolerable conditions. " Not a few 
are beginning to ask if there is no possible escape from the 
dilemma in which we find ourselves," declared Courtney 
to the Concihation Committee in November 1901. " An 
escape is to be found in conciliation alone. Look at the 
miserable expedients by which we are now pursuing the war 
— the devastation of the land, the ruined homesteads, the 
burnt crops, the wells destroyed. We have estranged the 
Dutch in Cape Colony, so that our hold on that colony is now 
most insecure. Whatever miUtary progress has been made, 
pohticaUy we have gone backward, and the hope of re- 
conciUation is less. Yet the path for reconciliation is open 
if the right men are appointed. If a settlement is to stand, 
it must be brought about by negotiation. I agree with 
Colonel Hanna that nothing can be done till Lord Milner is 
withdrawn. And the Government at home — is its place 
fixed for ever ? It has already lost its authority. Go 
where you will, you will find discontent and dissatisfaction. 
A new Cabinet might be formed with the mandate, ' You 
must find your way out of it.' In that case some trusted 
unknown men would go here and there, would find out what 
people were thinking at the Hague and the temper of the 
leaders in the field, and we might wake up one morning to 
discover that an arrangement had been made. If conciha- 
tion permeated the nation the thing could be done. I wiU 
almost prophesy that the thing wiU be done — the alternative 
is the loss of South Africa." 

The cause of moderation received an immense impetus 
from the eagerly awaited speech of Lord Rosebery at Chester- 


field on December 16, in which he opposed the poHcy of 
unconditional surrender and hinted at the utility of conver- 
sations " in a wayside inn." The hint was not in vain ; for 
within a week or two the first steps towards peace, unknown 
to the pubUc, were taken by a private citizen, Francis Fox, a 
respected member of the Society of Friends, who journeyed 
to the Hague and invited the Dutch Government to offer 

The Chesterfield speech monopolised public attention 
throughout the Christmas holidays, and the advice to the 
Liberal party to " clean its slate " was as much canvassed 
as the references to the war. Lord Rosebery was the most 
popular man in the country, and some of his hearers and 
readers cherished the notion that he might return to lead it 
or at least to share in its counsels ; but the illusion was soon 
dispelled by the ex-Premier himself, who had ceased to hold 
what had been since 1886 the distinctive tenet of the Liberal 

From John Morley 

December 28, 1901. — I am much beset by people about the 
condition of the Liberal party. You will infer from the public 
prints in a day or two that we may finally take it as settled 
that Lord Rosebery will have nothing to say to such a party. 
For my own part I never supposed anything else. But the 
definite announcement will make a new situation, and one, to 
begin with, of much embarrassment to the Liberal Imperialists. 
I suppose the end, for the time, will be that our side of the House 
will drag on in the old misery and humiliation. My present 
purpose is to hold aloof from the ofiicial council, though I 
am in close communication with Campbell-Bannerman. He is 
extremely firm. 

To John Morley 

December 31, 1901. — I was much interested in getting your 
letter yesterday, the main fact of which seems to have already 
reached the newspapers. The result is a great blow to those 
eager worshippers who were ready to turn to Rosebery as their 
deliverer and to forget Campbell-Bannerman. But they will 
surely be very angry with Rosebery, though they deceived 


themselves more than he deceived them. Why should not the 
reaction strengthen CampbeU-Bannerman by rall5dng round 
him those who were moving in his direction before Rosebery 
spoke and who now find that they have been momentarily 
betrayed away from the path they were following ? 

While Liberal ex-Ministers were divided on the war, the 
Women's Liberal Federation gave steady support to the 
policy of the Liberal leader. In June 1900 Mrs. Courtney, 
supported by Mrs. Bryce and Lady Ripon, presided over a 
crowded women's meeting at Queen's Hall, at which a stately 
poem written for the occasion by William Watson was 
recited. About the same time an organisation called the 
" Conciliation Workers " was instituted, which grew into 
the Committee of the Distress Fund for South African 
Women and Children. In December Miss Emily Hobhouse, 
the Honorary Secretary, started for South Africa with Mr. 
and Mrs. Rowntree, and obtained leave from the High 
Commissioner and Lord Kitchener to proceed to Bloem- 
fontein with clothes and supplies for the concentration 
camps, where the women and children from the devastated 
districts had been collected. Returning in the early summer 
of 190 1, she informed her Committee of the sensational 
infant mortality and presented her recommendations for 
reform to the War Minister. Mr. Brodrick announced that 
a Commission consisting of Mrs. Fawcett and five other 
ladies would visit the camps and report, but declined to 
allow Miss Hobhouse to resume her labours. WTien she 
sailed in the autumn she was forbidden to land at Cape Town. 
Her deportation raised difficult legal questions, which were 
anxiously considered after her return home by her uncle 
Lord Hobhouse, Frederic Harrison, Edmund Robertson, 
Frederic Mackamess and Courtney. Though they all desired 
to take proceedings in order to test the legality of martial 
law, the plan was abandoned on the ground that the judiciary 
would probably follow its usual practice in time of war by 
refusing to challenge the action of the executive. The 
incident was reported to the Liberal Leader, who like Courtney 
had followed her work from the beginning with sympathetic 
interest and encouragement. 


From Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman {to Mrs. Courtney) 

November 28, 1901. — I am much obliged to you for giving 
me so exact an account of Miss Hobhouse's adventures. How 
much more will it take to rouse the ire of our people ? Will 
anything rouse it ? She h